Earth Day 1970: The Beginning of a Movement

By Youth Ocean Advocates Elsie C.

Forty-seven years ago, citizens of the United States stood together to show their support for environmental protective measures. Across the country, two thousand universities, ten thousand schools, and hundreds of communities took part in the very first Earth Day celebrations. An estimated twenty million Americans participated. It reached such a magnitude that fifth avenue in New York was shut down for the event. The brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day sought to unite people in encouraging politicians to take measures against environmental crises such as air pollution, water pollution and the use of pesticides that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring shed light on. The rallies, marches, and celebrations held on that day marked the beginning of an environmental movement that was more present in the public eye.

Earth Day succeeded tremendously. Involvement in events nationally was much higher than expected. It achieved its goals of educating people, and unifying supporters to fight for a common cause. Environmental groups both grew in membership and band together to advocate for their shared values, making the movement that much more effective. It united Democrats and Republicans for environmental changes, a rare feat. By the end of that year, the Clean Air Act was passed, and two and three years later, the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act was passed. Most importantly, by the end of 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Environmental Policy Act were created. These acts and organizations have greatly aided in conservation efforts, and continue to even today.

Today, Earth Day and environmentalism remain to be a crucial part of the eco-friendly movement. It has become the largest secular celebration in the world, celebrated by a billion people each year. Events supporting environmentalism remain popular even now. Indeed, marches in protest of recent governmental opposition to climate change action and cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency are planned worldwide for Earth Day this year. However, many of the conservation issues supporters faced in 1970 have not improved, indeed many have worsened. Climate change continues to be an area of great controversy for citizens and politicians alike, despite its deadly effects on us currently. Indeed, the Environmental Justice Foundation reports that 150 million people will be displaced due to climate change related events by 2050, just under double the current number of refugees now.

The time for newfound interest and public support in environmentalism is now. In 1970, a huge effort was made to raise public awareness, advocate for better legislature, and support conservation organizations, and it succeeded. Currently, it is a time of gravity for the environment. If citizens band together now to bring attention to issues such as global warming, habitat loss, and pollution, and cause politicians to recognize this as a nonpartisan issue, innumerable benefits would occur. The environment, public health, and economy would flourish, and most importantly, future generations will inherit a safe, sustainable earth.



Categories Science

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