Earth Day’s 49th birthday

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Earth Day was founded in 1970 after decades of environmental decline. Prior to 1970, there was no Environmental Protection Agency, no Endangered Species Act, no Clean Air Act and no Clean Water Act. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Some people might call this past weekend a holiday weekend because of Easter. Others might call it that regarding Passover. But the truth is, there is a less-celebrated, far-more-impactful holiday that makes an appearance every April 22: Earth Day. 

Earth Day was founded in 1970 after decades of environmental decline. Prior to 1970, there was no Environmental Protection Agency, no Endangered Species Act, no Clean Air Act and no Clean Water Act. In lieu of them, factories were free to pollute the air with smoke and dump waste into local streams and rivers. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s instantly-popular book “Silent Spring” hit the shelves, sparking the modern environmental movement and bringing the problem of pollution to the forefront of people’s minds. Awareness of the movement escalated after the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, which then led to U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson to call for a “national teach-in on the environment,” a.k.a. the first Earth Day

Since Nelson’s creation of Earth Day, the environmental movement has made great strides. One example of this progress is the recent cleaning of Lake Onondaga, previously known as the most polluted lake in America. In 2015, the one-billion-dollar cleaning process finally cleansed the lake of 125 years of pollution, allowing swimmers to get into the water for the first time since 1940

Other environmental movement victories include the 1974 phase-out of lead from gas, the 1987 Montreal Protocol which began the effort to heal the hole in the ozone and the 1989 effort to phase-out asbestos. Numerous laws have been passed to protect endangered species such as whales and black-footed ferrets. Efforts have also been made to return certain aspects of nature to their former state. This includes the 1995 reintroduction of grey wolves to Yellowstone National Park, the 2012 removal of Washington Elwha’s dams and the recovery of many endangered species such as the bald eagle, the lesser long-nosed bat and Yellowstone’s grizzly bears

Media and pop culture are huge participators in Earth Day, especially Disney and their annual Disneynature movie. This year’s edition is the film “Penguins,” which appears to be a cross between “Happy Feet” and “March of the Penguins.” According to the Disneynature website, it is a coming-of-age story of Steve, an Adélie penguin. It comes out in theaters nationwide today, April 22

You can get involved today in honor of Earth Day by helping to clean up our school and spread awareness about the constant threats industry poses on our environment. This includes the Second Annual Earth Day Campus Clean-Up in the Biophysics Lobby from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Even if you can’t make it to the Clean-Up itself, you can still take their lead and pick up any trash you see around campus and encourage others to do the same

From everyone at The Daily Campus, have a great Earth Day! 


Rebecca Maher is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.l.maher@uconn.edu.

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