Today Is Earth Day – Does Anyone Care?
By James Donahue
Environmental activists began marking "Earth Day" in the United States and increasingly
around the world for the past 43 years. But unlike the other so-called holidays, this one usually slips past with very little
Sure, some newspaper editors note the day and school children often go on special trips
to plant trees to mark the occasion. But this day, which deserves more attention than all of the religious holidays we celebrate,
has been largely ignored.
While Earth Day is officially set for April 22 on our calendars, it didn’t begin
that way. The late California newspaper editor and peace activist John McConnell dreamed up the idea after he was inspired
by the first space image of Earth that appeared in Life Magazine. He persuaded the San Francisco City Council to establish
the very first Earth Day on March 21, 1970.
McConnell also designed the official Earth Day flag, which is still flown by the true
advocates of the special day.
McConnell’s concern for the environment obviously grew out of the environmental
movement that was born among the youth movements of the late 1950s and 1960s. He began his crusade to launch a world-wide
recognition of Earth Day in October, 1969, when he attended the National UNESCO Conference held in San Francisco. There he
proposed a global holiday to celebrate the planet’s life and beauty and to advance world peace, and make people aware
of the need to preserve and protect threatened ecological balances even then threatening all life on Earth. His proclamation
was adopted by the United Nations and signed by 36 world leaders.
Since then Earth Day is celebrated around the world on the spring equinox by the ringing
of peace bells. A UN Peace Bell also is rung that day at the United Nations building in New York.
So why is Earth Day now marked to occur on April 22 instead of March 21 or on the spring
equinox? This is largely because of the work of the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who also promoted Earth Day observances
in the United States and called for a national celebration in the United States to occur one month after the date proposed
Nelson, who also was an environmental activist, began promoting the idea of a national
"teach-in" about the damage being done to the world ecology after observing the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969. Because of
his position as a U. S. Senator, Nelson was able to promote that first "official" April 22 Earth Day in 1970. The idea spread
and two thousands colleges and universities and about 10,000 primary and secondary schools and hundreds of communities in
the United States participated.
The result of those first years of environmental activism brought about Congressional
passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
America was clearly off to a good start in those years. What has happened since?
After a few years of being forced to clean up their carbon emissions from coal burning
furnaces, automobile exhaust pipes, and stop dumping toxic waste into the nation’s lakes and streams, big industry began
The big corporations joined forces and began spending heavily on lobbying efforts in
Washington. The counter movement has now brought about an almost complete reversal of the controls set by the Environmental
Protection Agency. National leaders are literally ignoring environmental issues, refusing to acknowledge global warming and
climate change as real global issues, and the principles sought by the founders of Earth Day are all but ignored.
The march of deadly storms across the nation for the past year or longer, the extreme
drought that has struck the midsection of our farming belt, the harsh hurricanes and cyclones that are ravaging the coasts,
the rising sea levels from melting ice caps and glaciers apparently are not waking anybody up.
As long as big money remains the god of the people, Earth Day seems to be a lost and
forgotten effort. And this is really sad.