Earth Day has focused on many things since its inception in 1970.
When it began, there was very little concern at a political level about the perils of human impact on the planet. Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, Silent Spring, was just starting to raise awareness around the issue of pesticides, but at that time, factories could spew toxic smog into the air or dump into rivers without regulation.
Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson saw that the road ahead was grave if these travesties weren’t monitored. After witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, he convinced John and Robert Kennedy of the importance of making the environment a key issue for the American people. President Kennedy embarked on a cross-country tour to raise awareness about the environment. However, the tour did not accomplish its desired results. Sen. Nelson decided to promote a day devoted only to these issues. He enlisted the help of the media and college students around the country. When April 22, 1970, came around, Earth Day surpassed expectations. According to Sen. Nelson, “It organized itself.”
The first Earth Day accomplished politically what most issues are not able to do: it brought together Republicans and Democrats, tycoons and college students, labor leaders and farmers. More than 20 million people raised their voices on the first Earth Day, resulting in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Each year since then has built upon the last. Earth Day has become a global holiday that continues to raise awareness around issues such as climate change and clean energy. It is important for the planet’s future and the future of our children that the progress that has been made not be lost. Our children have a right to clean air and water, public lands and corporate accountability.
As the 47th Earth Day approaches on April 22, it is a good time to take stock of the issues that are important today and ensure we pass along a healthy world to our children. As the executive director of Durango Nature Studies, I continue to believe that raising kids who understand and love the natural world is essential.
To call attention to our effort, Durango Nature Studies is hosting our eighth annual Earth Day Festival and 5k on April 23 at Rotary Park. We will have free booths for organizations and businesses that want to showcase what they are doing for the environment. In addition, we will celebrate our children with kids activities and displays of children’s art. The day will also include a kayak race starting at 10:30 a.m., a 5k and family fun run starting at 11 a.m., pizza and beer coupons and music by the Pete Guiliani Band. Registration forms can be picked up at Backcountry Experience or Browns Sport Shoe, as well as our website, www.durangonaturestudies.org.
Ultimately, Earth Day is about raising awareness, but it is also a reminder of what is at stake when we think about the next generation.
Sally Shuffield is executive director of Durango Nature Studies. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-9244.