Initially, Earth Day was filled with social activity: people voiced and strengthened their rights, women fought for equal treatment. But then there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act.
Almost half a century has passed, and what began as a mass social movement has turned into an international day of attention and activity dedicated to the preservation of the environment.
Millions of people take part in Earth Day around the world. People celebrate by holding parades, planting trees, meeting with local representatives and cleaning up the neighborhood.
A number of critical environmental issues have contributed to the formation of the modern environmental movement.
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, published in 1962, revealed the dangerous use of a pesticide called DDT that polluted rivers and destroyed the eggs of birds of prey such as bald eagles.
When the modern environmental movement was still in its infancy, pollution was in full view. The bird’s feathers were black with soot. There was smog in the air. We were just starting to think about recycling.
Then in 1969, a major oil spill hit the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Then Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin made Earth Day a national holiday, and more than 20 million people supported the initiative.
This spurred a movement that pushed US President Richard Nixon to create the Environmental Protection Agency. In the years since the first Earth Day, there have been over 48 major environmental wins. All nature was protected: from clean water to endangered species.
The US Environmental Protection Agency also works to protect people’s health. For example, lead and asbestos, once ubiquitous in homes and offices, have been largely eliminated from many common products.
Plastic is one of the biggest environmental issues right now.
Plastic is everywhere – huge piles like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and micronutrients eaten by animals and ending up on our dinner plates.
Some environmental groups are organizing grassroots movements to reduce the use of common plastics such as plastic straws; The UK has even proposed legislation to ban their use. This is one way to reduce the amount of non-recyclable plastic waste, which is 91%.
But plastic pollution is not the only problem threatening the Earth. Today’s worst environmental problems are probably the result of the impact humans have had on the Earth for the past two hundred years.
“Two of the most pressing issues we face today are habitat loss and climate change, and these issues are interconnected,” says Jonathan Bailey, chief scientist at the National Geographic Society.
Climate change threatens biodiversity and national security. It has caused phenomena such as the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and abnormal weather conditions.
Unlike the first Earth Day, there is now a stronger regulatory framework around the world to govern environmental policy and our impact. The question is whether it will continue in the future.
Bailey noted that addressing these environmental issues requires fundamental change. “First, we need to appreciate the natural world more,” he says. Then we must commit ourselves to protecting the most critical regions. Finally, he points out that we need to innovate faster. For example, more efficient production of vegetable protein and the cultivation of renewable energy sources will help reduce the impact of what he considers the greatest threat to the Earth.
“One of our biggest hurdles is our mindset: we need people to emotionally connect with the natural world, understand how it works and our dependence on it,” Bailey says. “In essence, if we care about the natural world, we will value and protect it and make decisions that ensure a prosperous future for species and ecosystems.”