The Legacy of Earth Day

The teal waters ran black as oil seeped its way into the sand and coated the kelp forests. A hundred thousand gallons of oil covered the beaches and ocean– soon to be one of many spills that man would cause. After witnessing the coast lined in dark sludge, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson decided that a “national teach-in on the environment” was needed to call attention to our human effect on the environment. And Earth Day was created. 

On April 22, 1970, people from around the country gathered for coast to coast rallies to protest against the destruction of the land. Following the first Earth Day, monumental policies such as the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were passed. It was a celebration of the earth that only continued to grow, becoming an international campaign in 1990. 

And yet, 26 years later, the topic of climate change received five minutes and twenty seven seconds of attention. For this is the amount of time spent discussing the environment during the 2016 elections, over the course of three debates. It was overlooked and ignored, as the topic of climate often is in the media.

And so Earth Day is met with the criticism of only calling attention to the environment one day a year, when every day is crucial. But Earth Day is more than a singular holiday. It sparks a reminder that natural resources are not finite. It tells us that we have been fighting this fight for almost 50 years and that time is running out. It proves that the media cannot ignore this issue. It also shows progress. 

Withthe Paris Climate Accord, Green New Deal, Sunrise Movement, IPCC Report, and prominent climate activists in the news daily, the environment has been receiving more media attention than ever. The 1970’s movement has evolved as we are beginning to feel the effects of climate change now. So if Earth Day can get the attention of people to do something this April 22, whether that is to reconsider their composting habits, share the environmental message, or start a movement, then it is something worthwhile.