Earth Day turns 40: Celebrate with local events
Forty years ago, the inaugural Earth Day took the country by storm.
On April 22, 1970, over 20 million American citizens, including teachers, students and community leaders in more than 1,000 cities and towns across the country, raised awareness of environmental degradation in their communities and demanded government protection for the natural environment.
Spearheaded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, this national environmental teach-in led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the creation of the Clean Water Act and amendments to the Clean Air Act. "Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures," said Nelson in a speech he presented on a breezy 59-degree inaugural Earth Day in Denver.
Keep reading to learn more a bout the first Earth Day and find local events this week...
Only months earlier, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio had literally caught fire. According to the Ohio Historical Society, Times magazine described the river as "Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows." The protection of natural resources for conservation's sake had transformed to a concern for the environment as a whole, with a goal of reducing the impact of pollution on air, land, water, biodiversity and human health. Senator Nelson and millions of Americans were on board, but Congress lagged behind. Nelson intended the first Earth Day to "force the issue [of the environment] into the political dialogue of the country."
Today, more than 500 million people worldwide celebrate Earth Day every April 22.
Though we may live or work in a built environment, we enjoy local parks, rivers and other natural areas for recreation. We depend on renewable and non-renewable resources for our day-to-day lives, and in doing so, alter the natural environment.
In turn, we are all affected by our local environment, from the air we breathe and water we drink to the local parks in which we walk our dogs.
What will you do this Earth Day to celebrate and support the environment in your community? Many events are occurring in the D.C. area. Here are just a few.
- Earth Day on the National Mall, April 24: includes a Climate Rally, National Sustainable Design Expo, a fair, music festival and more
- National Park Week, April 17-25: the National Park Service is offering fee-free days at parks throughout the country
- Anacostia Watershed Society's annual river cleanup and celebration, April 24
- U.S. Botanic Garden, April 23: activities and education events about sustainable living, gardening and cooking
- Alexandria Earth Day, April 24
- Take Your Child Outdoors To Work Day -- encourages parents to enjoy the outdoors with your children on Take Your Child To Work Day (April 22)
- More regional events
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