Thirty seven years ago, April 22nd 1970, Earth Day was born. Happy Earth Day everyone! Conceived as an environmental teach in, 20 million people participated in the first event. Schools, colleges and Universities and community groups across the United States participated in putting environmental reform on the political map.
A lot has happened since then. Namely the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The 70's was a good decade for environmentalism. People, in ever growing numbers were beginning to talk about "Protecting the Earth" and "Saving the Whale." Politicians listened, and progress was made.
But like with all social movements, environmental activism created a negative reaction. The Reagan revolution and the sage brush rebellion of the 80's, NAFTA, the WTO in the 90's, and the current Bush Administration's complete disregard for environmental regulation, has negated decades of ecological stewardship.
But as it was in 1970, Earth Day 2007 comes at a time of heightened public awareness and growing concern. Global warming and accelerated climate change is now an accepted reality. Polar Bears are threatened with extinction, glaciers are melting, coral reefs dying, forests disappearing, drought is looming across the planet, and the weather is turning ugly. Environmental protection is once again at the forefront of the public agenda.
Personally, I am encouraged by the revitalized importance of ecological stewardship. No longer banned to the fringes of political discourse, environmental issues are being given the attention they deserve. Strengthened by the emerging trend of Triple Bottom Line thinking and sustainability planning models, activists are gaining ground in their battle against foot dragging corporate interests, and their representatives in government.
Facing a century of uncertainty and potential catastrophe, world citizens can not be too well informed or go to far in preparing their homes and communities for all eventualities. Knowing what we know now. Considerably more than activists had to work with in the 70's. No amount of effort in pursuit of environmental conservation, preservation, and restoration of Earth's ecosystems, and the species that inhabit them, is too much.
With the awakening of a culture attuned to ecological realities and global responsibility, voices of reason and restraint can no longer be ignored. Al Gore is proof of that. Learning to live with the outcome of industrialization, western civilization must seek out new teachers.
The lessons we learn is the true test.
Earth Day is a day of reflection, as much as it is a day about education and celebration. Understanding how we arrived at Earth Day 2007, is as important as understanding of how we got to Earth Day 1970, and how we can enjoy Earth Day 2027.
Like a birthday, Earth Day is just a place on the calendar. But oh, what a day. Instead of cake there is beach clean-up, and the party is one everyone shares. So party for the planet. Get dirty, plant a tree, get educated at the Earth Fair in San Diego's Balboa Park, or just for a hike. Find wilderness, commune with nature, watch the sun rise and set, tend your garden.
Yes, Earth Day should be every day. It's not. Until it is, Earth Day is just one day. April 22, every year. So make that day count. Make it special. Treat yourself. Replace light bulbs with candles and make a wish.
Happy Earth Day!