By: Deepa Pai
What is Earth Day? When did it start and why?
Post World War II, the United States of America went into a power building mode; capitalism and consumerism were encouraged and rewarded. The great suburbia developed. Americans were driving and shopping like never before. In two decades they had managed to pollute the air and waterways with emissions from their automobiles and industries. They were using up natural resources as if they were endless and polluting the air and water, causing health hazards to all living creatures on the planet. Then on January 28th, 1969 tragedy struck off the coast of Santa Barbara, California: a huge crude oil spill contaminated the ocean and the shores for thousands of miles up and down the coast, destroying the wildlife along the coastline. There were no regulations to penalize the oil companies for this disaster.
This incident got Wisconsin Senator Nelson into action to mobilize students at the University to call for action to regulate pollution from industries. He chose April 22nd that fell between spring break and final exams. A young activist named Denis Hayes galvanized the movement, spread the word, christened the day as Earth Day and on 22nd April 1970, 10% of the population showed up for protests. That led to the formation of the EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency, followed by several such organizations including the OSHA, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
By 1990 the effects of industrialization were felt all over the world and this day was being recognized as Earth Day world over. Over time, with enough awareness that industrialization does to the environment, there is legislation and regulation to restrict damage to the natural resources and reduce pollution.
Notable Events for Earth Day over the last half century:
We now celebrate this day by holding events across the globe to take us a step closer to repairing and rejuvenating Mother Earth, the main source of life to all creatures. Each one of us can celebrate Earth Day by giving back a little to the planet that gives us our life, literally. Small gestures like cleaning up a neighborhood trail to making bigger pledges like going zero waste and everything in between will help us preserve our planet and leave behind a healthier place for generations to come.
Listing out a few events taking place in our neighborhood over the weekend to celebrate Earth Day: