This Thursday, April 22, is Earth Day — and it marks more than five decades since the creation of both the modern-day environmental movement and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The first Earth Day was the culmination of years of concern about the environment. Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book “Silent Spring,” which first explored the links between widespread pesticide use and environmental degradation, was released in 1962. It showed how the pesticide DDT enters the food chain, accumulates in the fatty tissues of animals (humans included), and causes a host of problems, including cancer, genetic damage, and shell-thinning in birds.
Backed by many in the scientific community, it put the chemical industry on the defensive and exposed the widespread damage caused by indiscriminate use of pesticides.
Oil and Water
Meanwhile, air and water pollution were on the rise. Choking smog was an accepted part of city life. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted it frequently caught on fire — a regular problem dating back to at least 1868!
But then, in June of 1969, one of the Cuyahoga fires caught the attention of Time magazine, and the story garnered national attention. This came on the heels of an enormous oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara that same year. About 3 million gallons of crude oil spewed into the ocean, creating a slick 35 miles long along the California coast. Thousands of birds, fish and ocean animals were killed.
The spill was the tipping point for junior Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, who proposed a nationwide environmental “teach-in” on April 22, 1970, that soon grew into a worldwide movement.
That very first Earth Day eventually led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and more.
Acting Locally, Think Globally
Today, Earth Day is “widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes,” according to Earthday.org.
If you’d like to participate but aren’t sure where to start, The Morning Call has a roundup of observations and events planned across the region. In Allentown, the city is supplying brooms, bags, dust pans, litter tongs and trash pickup for community cleanups on Earth Day weekend ( April 24-25) and the entire months of April and May. Contact Jessica Armbruster at 610-437-8729 or email Jessica.Armbruster@allentownpa.gov.
And here are four things you can do every day to be kind to Mother Nature and protect the environment:
- Reduce the amount of water you’re using. Take shorter showers, install low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets, and fix any leaks — even a single faucet with a slow drip can waste up to 34 gallons per year.
- Consider adding a rain barrel to collect water for your gardens.
- Make a commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle. If you’re already a solid recycler, up your game by working on the other two components: reduce waste by choosing products with less packaging when you shop, and find creative solutions to reuse household items that would otherwise be destined for the trash.
- Compost — it’s one of our favorite solutions because it reduces trash and adds nutrients to the garden, without the need for chemical fertilizers. You can turn kitchen (and yard) waste into garden gold. Ready to get started? Check out these links for tips: