• February 8th, 2023
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Let’s Celebrate Environmental Activism


Fabián Capecchi

 

 

On April 22, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide as a date to remember the importance of caring for our Mother Earth.

Fifty-one years ago, no one, or very few people, was aware of the deep damage we were causing to the environment, much less to the planet. The chimneys spewing toxic smoke, the factories working at full steam, the cars, refrigerators, and aerosols added to the chorus of polluting agents, the dumping of tons of chemical waste in the same rivers that served as drinking water sources. Or the dumping of millions of tons of mixed garbage on land or in the sea. While some considered this to be progress, it was actually the price we were unknowingly paying for development.

Immersed as we were in the Cold War and the Vietnam War, politicians paid little attention to the voices that cried out about the increasing deterioration of the health of people exposed to pollution.

The Earth deserves that we celebrate its day.

In 1945, a professor of public health, environmentalist named Morton Hilbert, along with the U.S. the Public Health Service, organized a Human Ecology Symposium for students to hear scientists’ concerns about the effects of environmental degradation on human health.

That became a hotbed for environmental activists, where they began to shape the concept of Earth Day.

The first public alert to resonate with society was Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, which raised the specter of the dangerous effects of pesticides in the American countryside. It soon became a bestseller.

Fifty-one years ago, no one, or very few people, was aware of the deep damage we were causing to the environment, much less to the planet.

Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin had been trying to alert the government since 1962 about the dangers of ignoring the damage we were doing to our environment and the consequences for the health of the population.

Until then, the protection of the planet’s natural resources was not part of any national political agenda, and the number of activists dedicated to large-scale issues such as industrial pollution was scarce.

Furthermore, the few laws that existed to protect the environment were vague, confusing, and the consequences for violating them were minimal.

In a passionate 1969 speech at a conference in Seattle, Senator Gaylord Nelson announced and invited the entire nation to participate in creating Earth Day. The country’s reaction was overwhelming. Thousands of students volunteered to coordinate and organize the project. People’s reaction got politicians in Washington to see what was happening.

Social pressure served its purpose and as a consequence, by becoming a matter of national interest, the United States government created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with a series of laws aimed at protecting the environment and curb pollution.

From then on, Earth Day grew into a worldwide environmental activism movement in 1990. Earth Day is celebrated in 140 countries, in what is considered the largest secular civic event in the world.

Let’s celebrate this triumph, let’s celebrate our Mother Earth, keeping in mind that we came very close to losing many of those achievements due to the dismantling effort made by the Trump administration to reverse them.

 

Fabián Capecchi is a Senior bilingual copywriter. Originally posted at Sierra Club.

 

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