When I lived in New York City, I was a Counselor for several of the colleges. I have always loved being around young people, their energy, their creative process and their wonder at the possibility they can make a difference. We were working in 1969 on the concept of “How can we come together and help our environment?” There were many others who were thinking along this line and in 1970 the official first Earth Day was declared. One of the big breaks came when Mayor Lindsay shut down 5th Avenue for this major New York City event. The concept of Earth Day was growing town by town, city by city, state by state until it became a swell of like minds wanting to help and support this blue dot suspended in space we all live on called Earth. During the 1970s, there were substantial legislative actions such as the clean air act, clean water act, endangered species act, marine mammal protection act, toxics substances control act and the resource convention and recovery act. Most were under the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency.
We wanted to get this universal idea to be accepted by the most innocent of us, our children. Yes, the sweeping reforms would help, but teaching children the love of this Earth, the flowers, the fauna, our oceans, and all the creatures large and small in their infinite variety would insure the next generation of care. Organizing gardening parties so that the concepts became more real, tangible and tactile were planned. Planting edible food as well as bushes and trees that the bugs and the bees could also feast on was done. Education from K thru 12 was involved. In 1968 NASA photographed the Earth from the Moon and the news was saturated with the wonder of our environment and the vastness of the universe we were a part of. The artist Walt Kelly created an antipollution poster featuring his comic strip Pogo with the quotation “We have met the enemy and he is us.” To promote the 1970 Earth Day, all of this energy was with the hope that we could change human behavior and to continue to bring about policy changes. Over the years there have been many other policy changes to clean and protect our planet.
Each year Earth Day has taken on a different significances such as Earth Day 2019 was to protect our species. Earth Day 2021 was to restore our Earth. Earth Day for 2022 is to invest in our planet. Earth Day is now internationally celebrated. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day bringing home that we are of one world without national borders with the hope that individual contribution as well as the many triumphs of technology with bring about eco-activism.
As Secretary-General U Thant said in 1971, “May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.”