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THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2016
The Rockaway Times
Earth Day 46 – Started in 1970
ByPatMorgan
Earth Day is one of those an-
nual events on the calendar that
we sometimes forget the history
behind.
Why is it on April 22 and not the
first day of spring? Well originally it
was. In 1969 at a UNESCO Confer-
ence in San Francisco, peace ac-
tivist John McConnell proposed a
day tohonor theEarthandthecon-
cept of peace, to first be celebrated
on March 21, 1970, the first day of
spring inthenorthernhemisphere.
A month later, a separate Earth
Daywas founded by United States
Senator Gaylord Nelson as a day
of education about environmen-
tal issues onApril 22, 1970.Nelson
was later awarded thePresidential
Medal of Freedom Award in rec-
ognition of his work.
This event came on the heels of
other late ‘60s protests. The intent
was tocreateamassenvironmental
movement. It began as a “national
teach-in on the environment” and
was held on April 22 to maximize
the number of students that could
bereachedonuniversitycampuses.
By raising public awareness of air
andwater pollution, Nelson hoped
to bring environmental causes into
thenational spotlight.
In the 1960s Americans were be-
coming aware of the effects of pol-
lution on the environment. Only
a small portion of the American
population was familiar with, let
alone practiced recycling. Our own
national symbol, the bald eagle,
was at risk due to pesticides weak-
ening the shells of their eggs. Some
of us will remember seeing ads of
chemical sludge flowing into rivers
and smokestacks spewing smoke
upwards. Factories pumped pol-
lutants into the air, lakes and riv-
ers with few legal consequences.
There was the famous Keep Amer-
ica Beautiful commercial with the
“Crying Indian” in1970.
This issue became part of the po-
litical agenda. President Nixon cre-
atedtheUnitedStatesEnvironmen-
tal Protection Agency (or EPA) for
the purpose of protecting human
health and the environment by
writing and enforcing regulations
basedon lawspassedbyCongress.
In 1990, Earth Day went global,
with 200million people in over 140
nationsparticipating. In2000,Earth
Day focused on clean energy and
involved hundreds of millions of
people in 184 countries and 5,000
environmental groups. Today, the
Earth Day Network (EDN) collab-
orates with more than 17,000 part-
nersandorganizations in174coun-
tries. According to EDN, more than
one billion people are involved in
Earth Day activities, making it “the
largest secular civic event in the
world.”
There have been environmental
improvements since 1970. Ameri-
cans emit less fumes andour appli-
ances aremore energy efficient.We
areusingmore “clean” energy than
ever before. Butwhenwe think that
we have escaped the issues of the
1960’s and 1970’s, you hear about
the water issues in Flint, MI which
reminds us that we still have a long
way togo.
If you are looking to do some-
thing for Earth Day, here are a few
suggestions:
Locally, you can support the Ja-
maica Bay Ecowatchers’ goal of
preserving, protecting, enhancing
and restoring the fragile ecosystem
of Jamaica Bay. You can learnmore
about theirmission at their website:
http://jamaicabayecowatchers.org/
Go online and search for events
like the Time Out NY website
(http://www.timeout.com/newyo-
rk/things-to-do/fun-things-to-do-
for-earth-day-in-nyc).
Show your passion for nature
by sending an Earth Day ecard to
your friends: http://wwf.world-
wildlife.org/site/PageServer?pa-
gename=EarthDay_Ecards
Or join in an upcoming Event:
The RWA’s 10th Annual Earth Day
Rockaway on Saturday, May 7, 12
PM - 4 PM at the RISE Center, 58-
03 Rockaway Beach Blvd: http://
www.rwalliance.org/rwa/events/
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