This year marks the 44th year since the first Earth Day in 1970. Things have greatly changed in our world since then. Before the first Earth Day, there was little in the way of regulations on vehicle exhaust or the amount of pollution that factories put out. Thanks to the awareness that was brought by Earth Day, the United States has made huge strides in environmental policies and behavior.
Austan Librach, speaking to a crowd of an estimated 40-60,000 at the first Earth Day in 1970 in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.
The History of Earth Day
There were a few key events that really moved the environmental movement that formed Earth Day in 1970. The first was the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. This river was so polluted that it caught fire 13 times between 1868 and 1970. A fire in 1952 that caused one billion dollars in damage was one of the first events that started to help Americans understand the level of destruction we as a nation had done to the Earth.
Another great influence was the book Silent Spring, written by Rachel Carson and published in 1962. This book was one of the first to criticize the post-war scientific discoveries that created a powerful but negative effect of humans on the modern world. The author criticized the widespread use of DDT and the negative effects it has on wildlife.
There were two men who helped make Earth Day a reality. The first was peace activist John McConnell who declared March 21, 1970 as International Earth Day. This became an official UN proclamation that was signed by the UN Secretary General. The other is Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin. He chose April 22 because it was time of the year that did not fall during spring break or finals, and also did not interfere with religious holidays like Easter and Passover. He intended Earth Day to be an educational initiative.
What has Earth Day Accomplished?
The biggest accomplishment in the United States from Earth Day and the environmental movement was the Environmental Protection Agency. Today, the EPA is a very partisan topic, but in the 1970’s, it had bipartisan support and was very popular. Thanks to the EPA, Americans recycle more, have much cleaner air, and public water supplies are now safer. Thanks to initiatives like Energy Star and WaterSense, Americans are also saving money.
Climate science has also become a worldwide topic. In the 1960’s, most meteorologists were concentrating on predicting the weather. However, more and more meteorologists are going into research into climate science and hopefully one day they will be able to convince the skeptics about the damage being done to the climate that is causing global warming.
Why is Earth Day important to Wiccans?
At the core of Wiccan belief in the Wiccan Rede – “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Protecting Mother Earth, who is known by many names, is one of the best ways we can ensure that we are truly harming none and helping many. From small things like recycling, to large projects such as adopting a highway stretch and cleaning it of litter, all Wiccans can make an impact on our environment. The changes needed are often small, but make a big impact.
Many Wiccans subscribe to the Gaia Hypothesis, and believe that our Mother Earth is alive, and each of us is part of a system that helps keep Mother Earth’s body stable. However, the pollution that we have caused is like a cancer, and we need to work toward healing Mother Earth so that she may thrive for future generations of Wiccans and Pagans.
The creation of Earth Day and the continued efforts it inspires to change environmental policy in the United States. However, there is starting to be a push back on this. There have been many environmental disasters over the past few years. Most of these incidents revolved around the drilling or transportation of crude oil and natural gas. Pagans across the globe need to remain active in making sure regulations are in place to protect our environment from the devastating effects of these disasters.
Environmental policies have come a long way in 44 years, and many great strides have been made to try to clean up our air and water systems. Mother Earth still has many enemies, but when people come together to protect her, it can make a big impact.
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