By: Erika Escamilla
Earth day is right around the corner and to celebrate how much it has helped us keep our earth clean, I am going to share with you all some history on Earth day’s origin and what it has helped us accomplish. Understanding the history of Earth Day can help us better understand why we should appreciate the holiday and how we can do our part.
Before 1970 there were no restrictions on the dumping of toxic waste or production of toxic smoke a factory could produce. There were no legal barriers or restrictions on private entities to regulate their use of natural resources. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin was the founder of earth day and pronounced April 22nd as Earth Day. Nelson’s idea was that by creating a national holiday dedicated to the earth, then the issue of protecting our environment had no choice but to be forced onto the national agenda. You may be wondering, why the 22nd of April? Senator Nelson had the help of graduate student Denis Hayes who was a graduate student at Harvard University who stated that in order to mobilize college students, they should pick a date in between student’s spring break and final exams.
On the first Earth Day, twenty million people demonstrated support for better clean and renewable practices by protesting, fundraising, and gathering at town halls all over the country; further proving Gaylord Nelsons point that we must care about issues pertaining to protecting our Earth from severe environmental damage. Later that year in December of 1970, U.S congress created a new federal agency to address environmental issues thus, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency was born.
The founding of Earth Day moved our attention from awareness to action. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency has effectively enacted acts that aim to prevent further harm done to our environment. These include the Clean air act, the safe drinking water act, the national environmental education act and the water act. Although these pieces of legislation are important in being proactive towards our environment, these are not the only things being done. Many Americans participate in Earth Day by dedicating one day out of the year to be a little more earth friendly than normal. I am an avid supporter of always being earth conscious, but I also understand that life comes in the way. Therefore, I am going to share with you some ideas of how you can be clean this Earth Day with the hope that you adopt these practices in your life all the time.
- Educate yourself on environmental issues.
Sometimes the topics regarding environmental issues can be hard to understand. Taking time to research issues that interest you is one way you can participate in Earth Day and influence others to do the same. Below are some of my favorite books that discuss issues pertaining to pesticides, the intersectionality between capitalism and the environment, and water accessibility.
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- This Changes Everything Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
- Not a Drop to Drink America’s Water Crisis (and What You Can Do) by Ken Midkiff
2. Reduce your meat consumption.
Did you know it takes 600 gallons of water to produce one single hamburger? Before I went vegetarian, I did not know that either. I do not expect everyone to become vegetarian but one thing we can do as a general public is reduce our meat consumption. Ever since the 1980’s meat consumption has risen to very high levels. This means livestock production has also increased along with their negative influence on greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and water scarcity. On average Americans consume 50 billion burgers per year, any aid in reducing this number helps reduce negative influences all together. For more information see below.
Meat consumption: Which are the current global risks? A review of recent (2010-2020) evidences
Meat consumption has been increasing since the 1960s, but especially from the 1980s decade to today. Although meat…
3. Support legislation like the Green New Deal to promote better environmental practices.
If you do not know what the Green New Deal is, don’t fret, I will give you the synopsis. The Green New Deal has many layers but at the most basic level it aims to upgrade our infrastructure, revitalize our energy systems, and restore our ecosystems. Through this, the Green New Deal promotes reducing economic inequality and creating sustainable jobs. Supporting legislation like these helps to show your local representative to vote yes when it is proposed in legislature.
Some critics of Earth Day believe that it is merely a day of performative action to which companies use it to look good, but never change their practices. The goal of Earth Day as Gaylord Nelson indicated was to raise environmental awareness. Although some companies may not change their practices, knowing and understanding what Earth Day is about helps us, the people, to force the issue on the agenda. I advocate for everyone to become concerned with our planet and prove the critics wrong that it is not just performative activism. Lastly, a clean earth is a supportive earth. We can only take what we also give back, without safe, clean, and renewable practices of our natural resources, we do not have those in return. There’s only one mother earth, let’s treat her right.