Earth Day started as a teach-in about the environment. It is 1970, one year after the Santa Barbara oil spill, eight years since Rachel Carson released Silent Spring, and right in the middle of raging anti-war protests. Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, harnesses the energy of young people and the rising consciousness around environmental protection to culminate in a national day of action. On April 22, 1970 over 20 million Americans took part in rallies and teach-ins across the country fighting waterways clogged with sewage, nuclear power, toxic dumps, smog, pesticides, development, loss of habitat, and the decline of wildlife.
Their efforts weren’t in vain, and the cause enlisted members from both sides of the aisle in Congress to create the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA successfully passed regulations that are still in place today, including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Earth Day went global in 1990 when more than 141 countries participated in efforts. The fight isn’t over, however. Climate change deniers exist and are still in office, oil and agriculture lobbyists have incredible power and money to influence decisions, regulatory commissions are composed of former executives of the industry they are regulating, many businesses along the supply chain refuse to recognize the impact of their actions, and we lose acres and acres of habitat every day to deforestation. Today, Earth Day focuses on global warming and clean energy, but still draws a wide variety of environmental groups working toward a common goal: to take care of the place we live.
Each year, Earth Day Network (EDN), the political arm of Earth Day, chooses a cause to champion with a “billion acts of green”. This year’s celebration is particularly special to us because it focuses on ending plastic pollution, a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. Millions of people will be educated about the health and environmental risks associated with single-use plastics on Earth Day. The EDN is campaigning for alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials and promoting plastics that are 100 recyclable. We encourage you to think about all the plastic you use in your everyday life and choose producers that are accountable for the waste they help create.
The biggest celebration is right in our backyard! Hosted in Dallas this weekend, “EarthX” is the largest Earth Day event in the world. Last year they had over 100,000 attendees for speakers, forums, films, environmental projects, expos, and innovation. If you want something closer to home, Earth Day Austin is happening at Huston-Tillotson University but has been postponed due to weather until next Sunday, April 29. Stop by and learn about what’s happening in our environmental community!