Today is Earth Day.
According to http://www.earthday.org/earth-day-history-movement,
[e]ach year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.
The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.
As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. “It was a gamble,” Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”
As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995) — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.
I hope Earth Day actually helps the earth. I’m afraid it’s just a day to make people feel better about their shopping habits when in reality their other 364 days of the year are anti-earth days. I’m not saying I’m an environmental angel. I drive a gas guzzling vehicle, I use electricity, and I love me a long hot shower. However, I’m also not walking around feeling like it’s ok to empty eight 8 oz plastic water bottles a day because I recycle them.
And on a side note rant, why does recycling get all the publicity when reduce and resuse come first? Hey, I actually know the answer to my own question. If consumers reduce and reuse first, big business isn’t going to make as much money off of us. Recycling is an afterthought. Corporations do NOT want us to buy less, so we’re made to feel a bit better about what we do buy when we’re told the empty container can be recycled.
Do we know how much of what can be recycled actually is? I tried to find a statistic to share, but couldn’t find much information on this topic. According to https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=47701,
[d]epending on the [public recycling] bin and on the city’s recycling system, between 60 and 80 percent of recycling is actually recycled. Those numbers have probably improved over the past few years…
The article goes on to compare single stream and multi-stream recycling programs in New York City and Phoenix at the turn of the 21st century. Of course, this article gives information only about what people put into public recycling bins, not what percentage of everything that can be recycled actually is.
Here’s my #1 tip for saving the earth: Stop buying all that brand new crap you don’t even need.
Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-earth-galaxy-universe-2422/.