Some people ask, “What is this earth day all about?” “Does it really benefit the planet?” “How does it even help the environment?” Well, the people behind it and those who have been believers of this movement got a long story to tell that can answer these questions.
It’s not every day you’ll hear or read about the earth and its current condition on the internet, television, or as the topic of casual conversations. Sure, more and more people are exerting effort to achieve a sustainable and eco-friendly living, but there are those who still choose to just shrug shoulders — as if they weren’t being affected and alarmed of the environmental issues we are all facing today.
Despite the increasing number of individuals and organizations who aspire to make a difference, we can’t deny that we still have a long way to go – and that is why earth day still matter.
Founded by the late American politician and environmentalist Gaylord Nelson, the first earth day was celebrated in 1970 in the United States. It was on March 21, 1971 when it officially became an international event. Today, being the largest secular observance in the world, earth day is annually celebrated by more than a billion people across the globe.
According to the late Gaylord Nelson, founder of earth day, “Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level,” “that was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”
The worldwide event has been creating a long list of substantial environmental and economic developments and breakthroughs. Here are some of the most notable world changes and achievements of this movement:
EARTH DAY IN YEARS
What has Earth day Accomplished?
1970 – The establishment of Environmental Magna Carta
“The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 went into effect the following year, becoming a landmark law that requires every major decision of the federal government to be evaluated for its impact on the environment. This began the era of requiring environmental impact statements for building dams, roads, and other major projects. It has been called the “environmental Magna Carta” for its wide impact and for the precedent it set in government, both in the U.S. and abroad.” – nationalgeographic.com
1970 – The Clean Air Act 1970
“The enactment of the Clean Air Act of 1970 (1970 CAA) resulted in a major shift in the federal government’s role in air pollution control. This legislation authorized the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both stationary (industrial) sources and mobile sources.” – epa.gov
1970 – 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.
1972 – The Clean Water Act
“In 1972, the Clean Water Act passed, with the goal of making all rivers in the country swimmable and fishable again. In just a few years, the resulting efforts to restrict pollution led to rivers that no longer burst into flames.” – nationalgeographic.com
1972 – Saving Whales
“In 1972, the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment—held in Stockholm, Sweden—passed a resolution calling for a ten-year moratorium on commercial whaling. Similar resolutions were introduced in the IWC in 1972, 1973, and 1974. But the proposal didn’t receive the required three-quarters majority. Beginning in 1979, however, more and more countries joined the IWC that had never been involved in whaling, but were concerned for the future of the great whales.” – greenpeace.org
1973 – The Endangered Species Act of 1973
1974 – Getting the Lead Out of Gas
“In 1974, the EPA began a phaseout of lead from gasoline in the U.S., a process that completed in 1995. The toxic element was originally added to boost engine performance, but scientists eventually discovered that it was building up in soils and becoming a serious air pollutant. The EPA estimated more than 5,000 Americans died per year from heart disease linked to lead poisoning. Since the ban, the average level of lead in the blood of Americans has decreased by more than 75%.” – nationalgeographic.com
1975 – Catalytic converters became mandatory for all cars in the U.S., and now have hybrids and the first electric cars
1976 – The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
1979 – “The IWC banned the hunting of all whale species (except minke whales) by factory ships, and declared the entire Indian Ocean as a whale sanctuary. In 1982, the IWC adopted an indefinite global moratorium on commercial whaling. This moratorium was scheduled to take effect in the 1985-86 Antarctic whaling season. In 1994, the Commission declared the entire Southern Ocean to be a sanctuary for whales.” –
1986 McPackaging Improves
“In 1986, McDonalds started using biodegradable packaging, in response to criticism from environmentalists over mountains of Styrofoam containers littering roadways and choking landfills. Campaigners declared a major win, and the effort helped usher in a new era of companies both working with advocacy groups and acting on their own to reduce their environmental impact. The effort also helped raise consumer awareness about the impact of their own daily choices.” – nationalgeographic.com
2000 – Green Awareness
“As the old millennium ended, environmental awareness climbed toward an all-time high, spurred by decades of educational and activist campaigns. Few politicians or corporations could afford to overtly ignore the environment any longer.”
2002 – California Goes Solar
“In 2002, California passed an aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard in order to help stimulate the clean energy industry. After a series of adjustments, the final result is that utilities in the state must get half of their energy from renewables by 2030. Many other states passed similar standards, though the Golden State’s is the most ambitious.” – nationalgeographic.com
2009 – Massive Marine Monument
“In 2009, George W. Bush created the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which protects some of the most pristine waters in the ocean. The monument was expanded by Barack Obama to nearly 490,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers), making it nearly three times the size of California. It protects endemic species of coral and fish, turtles, whales, and much more.” – nationalgeographic.com
2010 – Protecting the Atlantic Coast
“In 2010, the Department of the Interior announced a ban on oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast until 2017. This was the latest in a series of efforts to limit development off the ecologically sensitive U.S. coasts.” – nationalgeographic.com
2015 – Climate Agreement
“In late 2015, nations came together in Paris and agreed to a new plan to limit global warming. The deal opens for formal signatures on Earth Day, and it will require countries to reduce emissions according to their pledges. Environmentalists are cautiously optimistic that the agreement represents a global turning point.” – nationalgeographic.com
2018 – Earth Day Network has relaunched its Billion Acts of Green campaign in China
EARTH DAY IN NUMBERS
37,000 – The US Army Corps of Engineers has 37,000 personnel involved in Earth Day.
100,000 – On Earth Day 2012, more than 100,000 people rode bikes in China to reduce CO2 emissions and save fuel.
20 million – More than 20 million people and thousands of local schools and communities participated in the first Earth Day of the United States that took place on 22 April 1970.
1 billion – Today more than 1 billion people participate in earth day activities each year to make it one of the largest movements on earth.
Indeed, this movement’s purpose doesn’t end with just the oft-raising awareness or scaring people with global warming facts and photos of sea of plastics and filthy landfills. It is here to inspire, to educate, to start small habits that make big impact, to tap the remiss, the people of power to use their influence to help, to be a collective voice for the voiceless, to remind the earth and its inhabitants how even the smallest act can help and that it’s never too late to make a change through our own little conscious ways.
Remember, the believers make the biggest difference. No conscious act is too small. The key to start is to believe in the little things that you can contribute and it’s just then that you can get yourself involved. Do something even as little as informing yourself about the current issues of the environment, picking up a single trash you see along the way to work, signing a petition, recycling, donating your old clothes, or joining in your local ocean clean-up or tree planting. As long as there are people who believe in this movement’s essence and honest aspiration, earth day will matter.
“The opportunity for a gradual but complete break with our destructive environmental history and a new beginning is at hand…. We can measure up to the challenge if we have the will to do so — that is the only question. I am optimistic that this generation will have the foresight and the will to begin the task of forging a sustainable society.” – Nelson Gaylord at the 25th anniversary of Earth Day