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Every Day is Earth Day
I remember with great fondness the 20th anniversary of the Earth Day Celebration in 1990. I was 12 years old, and I was in 7th grade. I remember purchasing the requisite “Save our Rainforests” t-shirt and buying socks made from recycled tires (I still own those by the way; they are really durable!). I remember watching Earth Day specials on television where celebrities taught me energy-efficient tips, like that it was better not to turn lights off in a room if I were only leaving for a few minutes. My favorite magazines, “YM” and “Seventeen,” offered me earth-friendly beauty tips, like natural scrubs I could make at home. I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book thought to be the catalyst for the larger environmental movement in the U.S.
Today, April 22nd, 2010, marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. I am marking the occasion by teaching my kids about each individual’s impact and responsibility to the environment. I am reading to them about planting seeds and the ecosystem. I will teach them where food comes from. I am offering my son’s kindergarten teacher activities she can do with her class to teach them about our planet. I am reflecting on my own environmental abuses and taking action to reduce my carbon footprint.
Today, I won’t be consuming anything that isn’t necessary. I won’t be buying that 100% organic cotton tee to mark the occasion. I won’t be eating out at a restaurant or fast-food joint. As always, my diet for today will be meat-free, but today, it will be as close to nature as I can get. I will not waste paper, and I will limit my computer usage to no more than two hours. I will take a walk with my kids to enjoy and share with them the beauty of nature.
The first Earth Day began as a “teach-in,” a grass-roots effort to educate the community about the dangers of environmental degradation. Senator Gaylord Nelson had been working for years to bring the issue of environmentalism to the forefront of the political agenda, with little success. After witnessing anti-Vietnam teach-ins on college campus, Nelson realized that this approach could be used to bring attention to environmental concerns. Nelson announced via radio that a national grassroots demonstration would occur in the spring of 1970. He encouraged everyone to participate. His idea took off like wildfire. The public now had a forum to voice their concerns about the environment, and they were excited to use it.
Since that first Earth Day, many Americans continue to demonstrate, educate, and voice their concerns over the degradation of our environment and to reflect on their own ecological footprint. Yet, it seems that so much of the excitement of the first Earth Day has died. While more Americans are recycling and switching to organic foods and energy-efficient light bulbs, we are doing so quietly. While the majority of Americans believe in global warming, the percentages who do and who think it is a serious concern have been declining in recent years. We aren’t teaching each other; we aren’t demonstrating in front of companies who are polluting; we aren’t demanding that the government force corporations to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, at least not en masse. Maybe it’s time we revive the spirit of the original Earth Day.
And, more importantly, let’s work in our own lives to make every day Earth Day.
image by FlyingSinger