Earth Day on April 22, is celebrating 45 years. Since its inception in 1970, the movement has grown from a single day, into an entire week long celebration. Not only has the amount of time spent on the day expanded, but it has also gone from being just a national celebration, to a global sensation.
The first Earth Day held in 1970 saw millions of individuals marching in the streets and doing demonstrations that were reminiscent of the 1960s. The purpose of the movement was to call attention to the pollution that was spreading across the American landscape. Everything from the air, water and overall land were slowly being polluted.
In an effort to make a stand, close to 10 thousand (although some reports indicate the numbers were closer to 20 thousand) individuals showed up at the Washington Monument in D.C., for the first ever Earth Day. There was a concert of folk music that included Pete Seeger and even a United States Senator, Edmund Muskie.
This first Earth Day movement brought the issues facing the environment into the spotlight. A social movement was started with environmentalism at its core, on that first celebration.
Now, there is an organization that leads the movement, and what started as a relatively small demonstration has morphed into a widespread push for environmental awareness. After 45 years, the celebration of Earth Day has become more than just a protest, march or simple rally.
The president of the Earth Day Network, Kathleen Rogers, spoke to NBC News about what the day is like now. She called Earth Day the single largest secular event across the globe. Rogers told NBC that there are 192 countries that take part in the day, with an estimated one billion people taking part.
For the 2015 Earth Day celebration, thousands of individuals once more descended on D.C., this time at the Washington National Mall, on April 18. There was a concert to kick off the celebration. Musicians taking part included Mary J. Blige and Gwen Stefani. There were also speeches from individuals such as the president of the World Bank and the secretary- general of the United Nations.
Rogers wants people to understand that Earth Day is still relevant. In this, it is important to know what kind of an impact the acknowledgements of Earth Day have accomplished.
Since 1980 there has been more than a 60 percent drop in the emissions of six of the major air pollutants that have caused problems. In 1972 the Clean Water Act was passed. Prior to that only about a third of the water in America was safe for fishing or swimming. Since the passing of the Act, that number has increased to approximately two thirds of the water supply. The land and even species issues have also been addressed.
Rogers does admit that there are still challenges to be faced. There are still problems that must be addressed, but now some of those issues are harder to address. One of those issues that Rogers admits needs to be dealt with is climate change.
The other challenge for Earth Day is that 45 years ago, those protesters were able to get things done and what they were doing had a proverbial bite to it, whereas today it is all about celebrations. The meaning behind Earth Day gets lost in the shuffle of a day celebrating the changes needed. As the movement has expanded some of the fight has gone out of the day, but the meaning behind the movement is as important as ever.
By Kimberley Spinney