This year, I am pondering Earth Day’s beginnings, and what the event’s place is in the fight for the future of our planet, and its place in our movement…Posted Apr 22, 2011
Earth Day is older than I am. I have cared about the environment for as long as I can remember. Since I have literally grown up with the movement itself, I want to take some time this year and reflect on our successes, but more importantly, I want to think critically about where we need to go.
The environmental problems we face today are more complex (climate change) than ever and are coupled with a sense of urgency to solve that is so intense it can, at times, lead to apathy in most people.
This year, I am pondering Earth Day’s beginnings, and what the event’s place is in the fight for the future of our planet, and its place in our movement.
A clear sign of maturity is the ability to act effectively in the face of complexity. The environmental movement will be judged against this measure and we need to rise to the challenge.
Where did Earth Day come from?
Earth Day began over 40 years ago, on April 22, 1970, in the United States and is credited to Senator Gaylord Nelson. The thrust for the inaugural event was a teach-in, designed to raise awareness about the environmental issues and demonstrate political support for an environmental agenda in Washington. 22 million Americans demonstrated their support that year, and over the decades since its inception the event has grown to be recognized by over 175 countries and over 500 million people. We are aware.
The theme this year is inspiring, and it is easier than ever to participate: A Billion Acts of Green: our people-powered campaign to generate a billion acts of environmental service and advocacy before Rio +20. The Earth Day Network’s website (www.earthday.org) already lists over one hundred million acts of green, at the time of writing this blog post. A visit to the site allows you to pledge the action you will take, measure your ecological footprint (a measure of the impact your lifestyle choices have on the earth’s natural resources), and find an event taking place in your state.
I encourage you to go to the website and make your pledge, and attend an event. It is important for us to connect to the other people in our communities that share our values and are working together to create healthier, safer, and more environmentally friendly communities.
I would also like you to take things a step further. Ask yourself what you are willing to pledge to do beyond Earth Day, because we need much more action than one day of focused effort. If we are going to honour the roots of this campaign, we need to do more to show strong support for an environmental agenda in Washington. That means this: we need to ensure that the environment is an issue that matters at the ballot box.
Are you willing to become active in politics? Are you willing to work with your neighbors to ensure that the candidate who will best advocate for effective environmental action gets elected to speak for you? Are you willing to be that candidate?
In the end, this is what it will take. The only way we ensure that we meet the goals of Earth Day, and become the mature movement that can handle complex issues effectively, is to ensure that the environment is a core issue in the political arena. Let’s work with each other to make sure that happens.
Happy Earth Day.
Naomi Devine is the Whistler2020 Sustainability Planner for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.