The First Earth Day was held April 22, 1970. Fifty years ago! 20 million Americans took to their streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a cleaner world. In 1962, Environmentalist Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller “Silent Spring” was published. It was a pivotal moment for those already aware of the pollution problem and a wake-up call for many other Americans. It sold more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries. Up until then most Americans were unaware of the pollution they were pumping into the air, water, and land. The polluting oversized, inefficient cars, the industrial smokestacks belching pollutants into the air and the numerous discharge pipes polluting the water were business as usual. Our economic health was more important than our environmental health. The book opened their eyes and hearts to the relationship between pollution and public health. It raised awareness of the changes in living organisms and our environment from the continuing disregard for the environment.
Earth Day was the brain child of Wisconsin State Senator Gaylord Nelson.
He was inspired by an oil spill he witnesses off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA in 1969. He focused the student led anti-war movement energy on the emerging public awareness of air and water pollution to advocate for a cleaner world.
Between Senator Nelson, his co-chair Congressman Pete McCloskey and Denis Hayes, a 25-year-old Harvard student, they organized a “national teach-in on the environment”. Americans, of all ages, walks of life and political beliefs came together that day and continued to advocate for their world. It worked! By the end of 1970 the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were passed.
Earth Day Matters
Earth Day went global in 1990; 200 million people in 141 countries were advocating for their environments. In 1992 the United Nations Earth Summit was held. And in 2000, 184 countries represented by 5,000 environmental groups were focused on global warming and clean energy issues. Recently, Swedish Environmentalist Greta Thunberg has been advocating for the World’s leaders to work on climate change. She is not alone in her mission. It is the number one concern of young people worldwide.
Virtual EarthFest 2020 – April 22-23
Here in the Jamestown area, Jamestown Community College takes the lead on Earth Day events. However, with the pandemic restrictions this year, they are holding a “Virtual Earthfest”. Janis Bowman, Coordinator for the Environmental Sciences and Professor of Biology at Jamestown Community College is the Coordinator for the upcoming virtual celebration. The event is sponsored by the JCC Earth Awareness Club, JCC Student Senate, and the College Program Committee. Bowman says, “The Earthfest celebration has been an annual event at JCC since circa 1990, growing larger every year. Our ability to reach out to students and the community is made possible through the participation of 20 amazing local vendors and environmental organizations who encourage and/or provide sustainable choices. The synergy of the yearly festival brings more than environmental issues, both local and global, to light. It provides a venue for networking and an energy that is contagious. Our virtual event will be highlighted from midnight April 22 through midnight April 23. It can be reached through the JCC website, www.sunyjcc.edu/events?mini=2020-04&date=2020-04-22, , and the College Facebook page.” She added, “This year’s event is focused on water pollution. While this year’s event does not provide all that an in-person festival would, we are doing our best to bring awareness of Earth Day, our environment, and positive choices that can be made on an individual basis. This has never been more important than it is today. One example is that tree seedling adoptions are not be available this year during our celebration, but we will do our best to encourage the planting of trees by sharing information for contacting the local Soil and Water Conservation District.”
Earth Day 2020 and the Pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused changes in everyone’s daily life. Getting outside for a walk around the neighborhood or a local park have been lifesavers for many cooped up inside their homes these past few weeks. The parks, both State and local have been busy with visitors during good weather. Julia Ciesla-Hanley is the Recreation Coordinator for the City of Jamestown. She says, “With “New York On Pause,” we’ve definitely seen an uptick in the use of our Riverwalk trails and bike path as people take the opportunity to get outside in a safe manner. That said, Mayor Eddie Sundquist made the correct decision to close down our playgrounds and basketball courts in order to further slow the spread of COVID-19. This was the right decision to make as we do not have the ability to keep play equipment sanitized and we also don’t want to encourage the close gathering of people when it comes to sports activities at this time. Being in nature has proven therapeutic benefits, so we do encourage people to visit our parks for outdoor exercise and also take this time as an opportunity to maybe visit a park they’ve never been to before. When you do visit our parks we ask that you maintain proper social distancing while encouraging you to follow the CDC’s guidelines in regards to wearing face masks.”
What Can You Do?
You can make a difference staying home. From conserving fossil fuel to not buying plastic water bottles, we can all help the environment. Professor Bowman suggested looking at the following website link for Earth Day related activities: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/. “Our small choices can make a large collective difference! Yes, every day should be Earth Day, and we make choices for or against our environment daily that will ultimately impact us. Let’s do what we can for a healthy environment and a healthy you. Happy Earth Day!,” says Bowman.