Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a nation-wide event to celebrate our one and only planet Earth. Most of us grew up celebrating and learning about this holiday in our classes every year, and maybe even attended a parade or clean up in its honor. Maybe your parents were extra environmentally-aware and had you go out and pick up trash or plant a tree in previous years. We should not take the fact that we grew up saturated in eco-friendly education for granted.
The history of Earth Day reaches back more than 40 years during the Kennedy administration. It wasn’t until Nixon that we officially saw the establishment of an official Earth Day, which tied in with the creation of what we now know as the Environmental Protection Agency. Both of these were created during April 1970 to tide the growing concerns the American people had about their government’s role in the environment.
College students should take note: it was specifically because of the work of college age students during that time that raised the necessary awareness to create Earth Day. Students at that time were protesting for a handful of reasons from civil rights to the war in Viet Nam. But one of their biggest concerns was the environment issues, and how they should be dealt with by the government. In response to the outcry by the people, the government created the EPA to watch over and guide environmental policy throughout the country.
Earth Day was created around that same time to raise awareness to the many environmental issues that were present during that era, and to spread information on how we can better treat the planet.
Since its creation Earth Day has served as a yearly reminder to treat the planet with respect and care as it’s the only one we have. Thousands of organizations and businesses donate money to environmental charities or offer service projects to improve their communities on this holiday.
But is it enough? Some environmental organizations would say no. Grist.org, an environmental organization and news source has created the “Screw Earth Day” campaign. The goal of this campaign is to get people to start ignoring Earth Day, and start viewing every day as a good opportunity to help the planet. Why only think about the Earth one day a year when the problems persist all year long?
Grist offers a list of activities and habits we should all adopt on a daily basis to reduce our impact on the Earth. Waiting around for Earth Day once a year is not going to be enough to combat some of the problems we are facing. Their list includes unplugging appliances when not in use, recycling at home and at work, eliminating the use of plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags, and reducing the amount of meat in your diet. Even just one day of vegetarianism would greatly reduce the amount of emissions created by cows and the transportation needed for the meats.
Celebrating the Earth is something we should continue to do on a yearly basis. We should use Earth Day to remind ourselves of all the wonders that nature provides. But when it comes to actually doing our part to conserve and protect, those are things we should carry with us every day.