Why Earth Day, April 22, 1970? • Tapped into an undercurrent of growing public concern about the environmental damage that had accompanied a generation of extraordinary prosperity. • It was a time when people could see, smell and taste pollution 1962 – Silent Spring by Rachel Carson described the long-term effects of highly toxic pesticides 1968 – Apollo astronauts photographed the planet Earth 1969 – Industrial runoff in the Cuyahoga River caught fire 1969 – Horrific oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA 1969 – Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act, declaring a “national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and the environment.” • Concurrent with the slow building of environmental awareness was the increasingly vocal opposition to the US involvement in the war in Vietnam. Public demonstrations (particularly on college campuses) could in fact change public policy and behavior. • April 22 was chosen because it was before the summer recess for grade and high schools and it avoided exam time on college campuses.
US Senator Gaylord Nelson • Nelson recognized that the methods developed for use in the anti-war protest could be a success in other areas as well. • “Why not have a nationwide teach-in on the environment?” • The idea of Earth Day: • nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment • shake up the political establishment • force environmental issues onto the political agenda • It idea worked, thanks to millions of concerned Americans spontaneous responded at the grassroots level • The event served as a wake-up call to the political establishment. • The environment became a national political priority.
April 22, 1970, Earth Day was held, one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. . . 20 million people demonstrated their support. . . American politics and public policy would never be the same again.American Heritage October 1993
Major Federal Environmental Initiatives since Earth Day 1970 1970 Environmental Protection Agency is created by EO 1970 Clean Air Act (1967 act amended) 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act 1972 Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments) 1972 Coastal Zone Management Act 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act 1972 Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act 1973 Endangered Species Act 1974 Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act 1975 Eastern Wilderness Act 1975 National Environmental Policy Act Amendments 1976 National Forest Management Act 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Major Federal Environmental Initiatives since Earth Day 1970 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act 1976 Federal Coal Leasing Act Amendments 1977 Clean Water Act Amendments 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act 1977 Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act 1978 Endangered American Wilderness Act 1978 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act 1985 Superfund Amendments 1985 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments 1987 Clean Water Act Amendments 1988 Endangered Species Act reauthorization
What changed from Earth Day? • Visible pollution has been cleaned up • Black smoke no longer billows from smokestacks • Raw sewage no longer runs into waterways in amounts it once did • Cuyahoga River no longer burns from pollution • Lake Erie’s fisheries have been revived • Prairie restoration in the Midwest • Coastal protection in California • Waterfowl habitat protected • Electricity from renewable sources
And then it faded • Though annual celebrations continued, they failed to match the size and enthusiasm of the first year. • However, the spirit continued as environmental organizations grew in size and power. • Earth Day came back in a big way in 1990
Earth Day 1990 Achievements • International in scope – • 200 million people in 141 countries • ten times the number in 1970 – participated in events that recognized that the environmental had finally become a universal public concern. • The UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. • The Earth Summit was the largest collection of national leaders ever to meet in one place. It made some important initial steps toward addressing climate change and preserving biodiversity. • More than a dozen countries established eco-labeling programs. • Several Eastern European nations established new environmental protection agencies • Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts.
Has the Environment Improved? • Within the US, the environment (specifically the air and water) is in better condition that it was on the first Earth Day • Between 1970 and 1996, most air pollutants decreased by one-third (except nitrogen oxides) and particulate matter has declined • Water quality has increased with decrease in fecal contamination and phosphorus
Where are we? Earth Day 2008 • Intellectually, we finally have come to understand that the wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats, and biodiversity. • In short, that’s all there is. That’s the whole economy. That’s where all the economic activity and all the jobs come from. These biological systems contain the sustaining wealth of the world. • As we continue to degrade them, we are consuming our capital. • It is a dangerous and slipper slope • We are not just toying with nature. We are compromising the capacity of natural systems to do what they need to do to preserve a livable world.
Concerns Today • Smog keeps children and elderly indoors in Atlanta, Houston, and Chicago • Inundating floods roll along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers • Fish consumption warnings have increased • Bird populations are waning in the Florida Everglades • Fresh water supplies are shrinking • Amphibian populations are decreasing
Achieving Sustainability • Nelson states in 2002, that this era marks the start of the environmental challenge of the future – the challenge of sustainability. • Environmental Education – A public unaware of environmental problems will not be concerned. A public unaware that its behavior puts life on our planet at risk won’t change its behavior.
Tasks for Earth Day 2008 • Green your ride • Skipping one four-mile round trip in your car can save about 15 pounds of air pollution! • Drink clean tap water • If your tap water is clean, why import bottled water from thousands of miles away? • Bring your own bag • We use 100 billion - that’s billion – plastic bags a year. Paper bags require more logging and use four times the energy to produce. Your best bet: use a reusable bag • San Francisco approved groundbreaking legislation to outlaw plastic checkout bags at large supermarkets • Get unplugged • 25% of the energy we use in our home is from appliances and electronics, so we are paying to just keep them unused and plugged in. Stop the power drain and unplug your appliances when you’re not using them
Resources • Ecological Footprint Quiz • www.earthday.net/footprint/index.asp • IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE ME, WE WOULD NEED 2.8 PLANETS. • Global Warming • Five-part cartoon series • www.npr.org/news/specials/climate/video • by NPR’s Robert Krulwich • Green Chemistry: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry • Zero Waste: www.zerowaste.org • Closed Loop Production: www.cleanproduction.org • Local Living Economies: www.livingeconomies.org