Earth Day has focused on many things since its inception in 1970. When it began, there was very little concern at a political level about the perils of human impact on the planet.
Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, was just starting to raise awareness about the issue of pesticides, but at that time, factories could still spew toxic smog into the air or dump into rivers without regulation.
Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, saw that the road ahead was grave if these travesties weren’t monitored. After witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., he convinced John and Robert Kennedy of the importance of making the environment a key issue for the American people. President Kennedy embarked on a cross-country tour to raise awareness about the environment.
The tour, however, did not accomplish its desired results. Nelson decided to promote a day devoted only to these issues. He enlisted the help of the media and college students around the country. When April 22, 1970, came around, it surpassed expectations. According to Nelson, “It organized itself.”
The first Earth Day accomplished politically what most issues are not able to do. It brought together Republicans and Democrats, tycoons and college students, labor leaders and farmers. More than 20 million people raised their voices on the first Earth Day, resulting in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Each year has brought a different focus to Earth Day. It has become a global holiday that continues to raise awareness about issues such as climate change and clean energy.
In addition, it is a time to celebrate community efforts at the local level. Focusing on eating locally produced foods, energy-efficient home construction and environmentally sustainable transportation choices are some of the ways individuals can make a difference in their everyday lives. As the 41st Earth Day approaches on April 22, it is a good time to take stock of the issues that are important today and what we can do as individuals to make Earth a healthier planet on which to live. As the executive director of Durango Nature Studies, I continue to believe that raising kids who love nature and the outdoors is the most important thing for the planet’s future.
As a celebration of all that is possible, Durango Nature Studies will host its second annual Earth Day Celebration on Saturday at Rotary Park. It will be a celebration of health: health of the planet, health of the community and health of the individual. We will have workshops throughout the day about solar energy, beekeeping, gardening and composting. In addition, we will celebrate our children with kids activities and displays of children’s art out of recycled material from the Recycling Collective.
The day will also include a 5-kilometer and family fun run starting at 10 a.m. Registration forms may be picked up at Backcountry Experience or Your Running & Tennis Store, as well as on our website at www.durangona turestudies.org. We will also have food and music.
Ultimately, Earth Day is about raising awareness but also celebrating what a healthy planet looks like for our kids. We hope you join Durango Nature Studies for this special day, as well as make a personal commitment on Earth Day to put some of the things you learn into practice.