Climate change, deforestation, carbon emissions, offshore drilling, greenhouse gases. Politicians, environmentalists and parents drill these words into our heads every day. And yes, they are much more than just words. Carbon dioxide emissions are rising at concerning levels as a result of our dependency on fossil fuels, while deforestation and desertification speed up the greenhouse effect. Consequently, the environment has been one of the largest and most controversial topics in recent years, but it has taken activists decades to reach this point.
Although concern for the environment can be traced back to Ben Franklin, who petitioned Philadelphia to stop dumping waste in commercial districts, and Teddy Roosevelt, who protected more than 230 million acres of land through his conservation efforts, the modern environmental movement began in 1970. At that point, Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin was concerned because the environment was a non-issue in politics at that time. He managed to raise awareness about air pollution and water cleanliness that led to more than 20 million people celebrating the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
Today, over 500 million people in 175 countries celebrate Earth Day. That number continues to increase each year, but with the constant talk every day about the environment, it seems that maybe Nelson’s original message is lost on some people.
Even I, someone who loves both politics and the environment, can get sick of listening to the constant bickering about the Earth. It can be difficult to have to change some of our less eco-friendly habits in order to go green. But as Nelson urged, our years of wasteful consumption have to come to an end. We have to realize that our personal actions, whether good or bad, have a direct effect on the planet we live on — a planet we share with 6 billion other people.
So this year, let’s try to put aside the politics and remember the sense of community that Earth Day stresses. It’s a day to remember not just that Mother Nature is a living thing in need of our attention, but that caring for the environment can be fun.
Come to the Cranberry’s Patio from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, and participate in Rider’s Earth Day Celebration. Bring a plastic grocery bag and exchange it for a reusable tote, bring a plastic beverage bottle and exchange it for a cool, BPA free reusable bottle and bring a container to pot your own plant. Soil and seeds will be provided.
– Brenna Simonson