Community Talks! Vol. 1, ep. 13.
Let me take you back to 1962, when a little book titled Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, changed everything about how we think about our environment, our impacts on it, and how we treat the Earth. Silent Spring showcased the widespread environmental degradation caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and how, if continued unabated, we would find ourselves in a silent spring—no birds, no insects, no vegetation, no trees, no nothing. (I know, very happy stuff for a Friday, but it does have a point).
Fast forward to January 1969 when an oil-well off the coast of Santa Barbara, California erupted, polluting the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel with a sludgy miasma of onyx colored oil. At the time it was the largest oil spill in United States Waters—later to place third behind the 2010 Deep Water Horizon spill and the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. The sheer volume of destruction to local habitats and the ravages that come with a massive oil spill shocked not only Californians, but the whole of the United States, into action.
April 22nd, 1970, marked the first Earth Day, championed by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Congressmen Pete McCloskey, and Denis Hayes, to bring wider public consciousness to our degradation of our environments and as a call to action for everyone to play a part in conserving the one world we have. The first Earth Day inspired 20 million in the United States to take to the streets, to the parks and auditoriums, to every nook and cranny of the country to demonstrate against the last 150 years of industrialization wreaking havoc on the environment. Enough was finally enough.
The impact of the first Earth Day was so monumental that it directly aided in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational and Safety Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. These laws protected millions of people from disease and death and have preserved hundreds of thousands of species from going extinct. By 1990, Earth Day was a global presence, mobilizing 200 million people from 141 countries, elevating environmental issues to the world stage.
Today’s celebration of Earth Day should not purloin from everything else happening in our world but rather to be seen as an integral part in fighting against inequities everywhere. Yes, we can all take our individual steps to safeguard the only home we have (recycling, taking public transportation, staying away from fast fashion, reusable cups—I mean the list is long), but without a concerted effort to step into a better future together, we are simply trying to bale water from the ocean.
So, for today, go step on the grass, sit under a tree, or thank a bee. Breathe the clean air and drink the clean water. Just remember, it was through the tireless efforts of millions in establishing Earth Day that allows for all these things we might often take for granted.
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