Earth Day's History and Legacy

By Courtney Cass

Earth Day is an international holiday dedicated to saving and celebrating the planet we call home. Every year on April 22, people around the world come together and participate in activities to take care of the environment and raise awareness for environmental concerns. With over one billion people celebrating Earth Day every year, it is the largest secular observance in the world.

All Photos Taken by Mikayla Kimery

All Photos Taken by Mikayla Kimery

Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970 after former U.S. Senator and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson (Democrat; Wisconsin) witnessed the environmental ruin that resulted from an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Nelson then decided that there needed to be a national day to focus on the environment. He became inspired by the energy from antiwar movements led by college students, and believed that if he could get the same amount of leverage from students about ecological concerns, environmental protection would become an important item on America’s political agenda. He built a staff to promote Earth Day events nationally and a “national teach-in on the environment” was held in colleges. April 22 was selected as the official day for Earth Day because it was geared more towards college students, and that date landed between spring break and finals.

The celebration of Earth Day has led to many positive changes for the environment, such as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Most recently, the Paris Climate Accord has also joined this list.

At the UN Conference on Climate Change in 2015, over 195 countries met and recognized that climate change is a common concern of humankind, because it represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to society and the planet. Promoting universal access to sustainable energy in both developing and developed countries is essential to stopping this problem. These countries have committed to work together on taking measurable actions in hopes of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By doing this, it will collectively decrease the global temperature’s rise from two degrees Celsius to a limit of one-point-five Celsius. The agreement will officially be signed on Earth Day 2016, at the UN Headquarters in New York.

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day, whether it is participating in an environmental rally or something as simple as recycling more. Even the smallest acts can have an impact. Here are some ways you can help the Earth and celebrate Earth Day at home and on campus.

1.      Recycle. Olympic College has numerous recycling receptacles around campus. Instead of throwing typical papers and plastics, as well as glass in the trash, place them in the nearest recycle bin.

2.      Carpool. Cars emit a lot of carbon dioxide, which contributes to increased levels of greenhouse gases. Carpooling to school not only reduces the amount of cars on the road and carbon dioxide emitted, but it also reduces the amount of cars in the parking lot, making finding a parking spot easier!

3.      Use reusable products. Instead of using plastic water bottles or plastic bags at the store, use a reusable water bottle and reusable bags. Not only can you purchase your own reusable grocery bags, but the bookstore also provides these bags when picking up textbooks.

4.      Pick up litter. If you see litter around campus or on the street, pick it up and put it in the proper receptacle. It will help keep the environment safe and our community clean.

If you want to learn more about Earth Day, or want to get involved with an Earth Day Network-sponsored event, visit the Earth Day Network website at Earth Day may only happen once a year, but you can keep the spirit of Earth Day year-round.

Make a conscious effort to help the environment by being active in protecting and preserving nature. Earth is our only home. If enough action is not taken to protect it, we may lose some or all of the wonderful things it has to offer.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” ― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax