Earth Day has been celebrated every April 22nd since 1970 when it began as a grassroots movement that ultimately inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act, and increased protections under the Clean Water Act. 

In 1990 while I was living in Maryland, I attended the 20th Anniversary of Earth Day in Washington, DC.  Of course, I took public transportation, the Metro, down to the The National Mall.  The crowd of people and organizations educating us about the importance of our environment was amazing and overwhelming.  Everyone convened by the steps of the Capitol to see the presenters – Woody Harrelson and Tom Cruise to name a few.  It was a moving day and showed how the persistence of individuals can create great change in our world.

History of Earth Day
Earth Day began as an idea from a Wisconsin U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson (who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 1990 for his Earth Day work).  It was announced as a “national teach-in on the environment.”  The first Earth Day team was comprised of Senator Gaylord Nelson, Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, and Denis Hayes from Harvard.  April 22nd was chosen because it fell between Spring Break and Final Exams. 

“Earth Day was a watershed moment for environmental politics, kicking off what is now termed the “Environmental Decade” of radical legislative reforms”  (Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day).  Twenty million Americans participated in the first Earth Day in 1970.  They rallied and demonstrated for a healthy environment.  Groups that had been individually working towards a healthier environment aligned themselves together – rich and poor; republican and democrat; urbanites and farmers.  This created unity that ultimately spurred the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act, to name a few.

Today’s Climate and Earth Day
In 2020, the theme for the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day is “Climate Action.  We are currently experiencing many changes to our “climate.”  Not only is the extreme weather affecting the climate across the globe, but also, our day-to-day climate during the coronavirus outbreak has been upended and our day-to-day routines dismantled.  Typically, I’d encourage you to seek out an Earth Day event in your area or go for a hike (which you still may be able to do with appropriate social-distancing), but this 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, while we’re sheltering-in-place or self-isolating, I encourage you to

  • Learn more about where your local Representative stands on the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act
  • Research a National or State Park you’d like to visit in the future
  • Read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. This work that first brought to light the connection of pollutants like DDT to the decimation of our songbirds

Earthday.org, the official organization of Earth Day, urges everyone to work together on the climate crisis by being part of the solution.  By the end of 2020, the world’s nations will come together to address the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.  The expectation is to increase commitment to protect the climate.  It is our responsibility to encourage the world leaders to put these priorities on the front burner to create a better world for our next generations. 

Steps You Can Take to Celebrate Earth Day Every Day!
Back in 1990, the slogan was “Earth Day Every Day” which I believe stands the test of time.  Take a peek at this video showing what you can do right now in your daily life to celebrate Earth Day Every Day.

  • Reduce use of plastic products
  • Store leftovers in glass, not plastic
  • Pick up litter
  • Spend some time in nature every day, even if it’s from your balcony

Resources
Carson, Rachel (1962).  Silent Spring. New York:Houghton Mifflin Company.
Earth Day.  https://www.earthday.org/  Accessed 3/27/2020
Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day http://www.nelsonearthday.net/nelson/  Accessed 3/28/2020
Green Pug Recycles.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKoLBSK8SSE.  Accessed 3/28/2020
Washington Post 4/15/1990.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1990/04/15/earth-takes-center-stage/1aa62228-cad3-4de0-90d6-069e7a79d989/  Accessed 3/27/2020

Sandy Morehouse is a functional herbalist and educator with WishGarden Herbs. She is based in Northwest Arkansas and spreads the herb love to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. She received her functional herbalist certification from Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine; certificate from Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in Medicine Making; and is continuing her education with Aviva Romm’s Herbal Medicine for Women course.