For most people, turning 45 brings to mind thoughts of grey hairs, college tuition payments and retirement planning. But as Earth Day gears up to celebrate its 45th birthday this April 22nd, this national event brings something even more momentous to mind: saving the planet. Wondering what makes Earth Day 2015 different from those that have gone before? Let’s take a closer look.
The Day That Spawned a Movement
It’s not surprising that Earth Day originated from a grassroots movement. While Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created the very first Earth Day in 1970, social consciousness was already growing thanks to the publication of Rachel Carson’s seminal book eight years prior. Silent Spring raised public consciousness about air and water pollution, making it an opportune time to debut the movement:. As people began realizing that the earth’s resources were finite, they were primed to take up its protection as a cause.
From gas-guzzling vehicles to the extinction of wildlife, the planet was in a state of imperilment in 1970, and yet each cause lacked solidarity with so many others rooted in the same values. Perhaps one of the most noteworthy things about that first Earth Day was the alignment of many environmental causes into one movement, along with unprecedented solidarity across political and socio economic divides.
By all accounts the original Earth Day was a success: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act all emerged from that milestone event. Not only that, but public opinion experienced a radical turnabout. According to figures from the EPA, the goal of protecting the environment rose by a staggering 2,500 percent in the public eye between 1969 and 1970.
Since that inaugural Earth Day drew together 20 million people, there has been progress — and the occasional stumbling point — along the way with new challenges arising as others have been resolved. Today, the Earth Day Network (EDN) continues its important mission, reaching more than 22,000 organizations in 192 countries with the goal of inspiring community development and environmental protection efforts around the world and throughout the year.
Earth Day 2015
More than one billion people around the world are expected to participate in Earth Day later this month. In fact, Earth Day is now the “largest secular civic event in the world,” according to the EDN. One of the largest gatherings will be helped in Washington, D.C. on April 18th when everyone from high-profile entertainers to global policymakers will convene on the National Mall for Global Citizen Earth Day. But you don’t have to be in our nation’s capital help make a difference.
Launched in 2000, A Billion Acts of Green began with the goal of registering one billion global environmental commitments — whether from individuals, businesses, governments or civic organizations — by the year 2012. While that goal was handily reached, it was just the start. The Earth Day network has since capitalized on the campaign’s momentum to strive for a billion more. What can you do in your own backyard to add to the list?
“It’s Our Turn to Lead”
This year’s Earth Day theme, “It’s Our Turn to Lead,” offers the opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, but also to assume responsibility for what’s coming next. We can all do our part to safeguard the planet we call home, but it’s not going to happen if we look to other people to solve the problem. After all, when Earth Day started, it was not part of the national political agenda, but a direct response to what was happening in the world at the time.
This is why EDN has prioritized the need for a louder, collective voice guaranteed to reach world leaders and drive change. To add your voice to the chorus, join the largest climate petition in the world. The ultimate goal? To compel world leaders to sign a climate change treaty by the time the ball drops on 2015.
With overpopulation, global warming, and other environmental issues remaining very real threats, the shared responsibility to solve the problem not only can reside with us, but must. No matter where you celebrate Earth Day, it’s important to take the opportunity to “think globally and act locally.” But equally as important as acting on behalf of the planet? Making your voice heard in the life-or-death fight to preserve this home for future generations.
And remember: while Earth Day’s 45th birthday is an accomplishment, the planet is going on 4.54 billion years. Only through the leadership of people like you can we ensure that many more birthdays remain.