The Theme of 2023 Earth Day and Earth Month is “Invest in our Planet”
by Dr. Marion Somers
Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s bestselling book Silent Spring brought to the public effects of pesticides. In 1969, the fire on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River shed light on the problems of chemical waste deposal. Researchers estimate over 15 billion trees are cut down each year. This was the beginning of a large scale grassroots environmental demonstration. To force the issue onto the National Agenda and the concept of Earth Day emerged in 1969, this got the entire nation involved. The American people finally had a forum to express their concern about what was happening to our environment. No one had the funds, specific time or resources, but millions of demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated. It was almost as though Earth Day organized itself as the general public was transforming its attitudes. The artist Walt Kelly created an antipollution poster featuring his comic strip character Pogo with the quotation, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
During the 1970s important pieces of environmental legislation were passed. The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, also established was the Environmental Protection Agency.
In 1990 Earth Day went Global with 200 million people in over a 140 Nations participating in Earth Day. In the winter of 1969-1970, many students and activist went to hear Dennis Hayes talk about his plans for Earth Day. I at the time, was politically involved with John Lindsay the Mayor of New York City. John Lindsay completely closed down Fifth Avenue to traffic from East 14th street to West 59th Street (Central Park) more than two miles. It was an estimated one million participants took part. In addition Mayor John Lindsay made Central Park available for Earth Day.
Earth Day became a call of action to change human behavior and invoke policy changes. Earth Day is now celebrated and observed in 192 countries. Earth Day is now the largest secular day of protest in the world with more than a billion people participating in Earth Day actions every year.
Earth Day Network (EDN) thoughts to entertain or avenues to explore:
Plant a Tree, tend to your local community garden
Clean up litter in your community
Turn off the Lights when not in use
Limit your water usage
Donate to environmental justice organizations
Not sure where to start? #Call4Climate and the Citizens Climate Lobby are great resources to turn to.