Earth Day 2014

Forty four years since its birth when twenty million Americans took to the streets in hundreds of public demonstrations against pollution, Earth Day is still going strong today.

The voices of those first activists were heard loud and clear, and Congress soon responded by setting up a dedicated agency for environmental issues and the regulation of toxic emissions.

Earth Day 2014

Up until this moment in history, factories were pumping toxic waste into streams and power stations continued chugging toxic gas into the atmosphere, and few were aware of the dangers. The damaging effect of exhaust emissions got no publicity and businesses polluting the planet attracted no bad press or retributions. But in 1970, the modern environmental movement was born and the population was finally held accountable for the future of its environment.

Hot on the heels of the Vietnam War and student protests, and at the height of flower power and the hippie movement, it’s no wonder it was a divided culture of peace and remonstration that created a powerful environmental movement like Earth Day. As Americans continued to fuel their cars with noxious leaded petrol and city streets were routinely so smoggy that a pedestrian would struggle to see clearly from one end to the other, Earth Day captured the energies and attentions of a progressive America.

The first Earth Day on April 22nd sparked over 12,000 events across the country. Two thirds of Congress spoke at Earth Day events and rallies, and led to the passing of acts like the Clean Air Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Today, the environment is a mainstream concern. Most of us would agree that there’s nothing particularly progressive about being concerned for the welfare of our planet – it’s a given. But with the unfathomable leaps we’ve made industrially since the 70s, environmental awareness is more difficult to pin down. Demonstrating environmental awareness can be more difficult in a world where supply chains are increasingly complex.

So in an age where environmental awareness has never been more important, Earth Day plays a vital role in encouraging people to be accountable in protecting the planet. And in an era where it’s easy to be lulled into a sense of active participation from the comfort of one’s desk, it’s only more imperative that people are shown tangible ways to do something for the environment.

Online activism is a start, and the internet is a massive tool in spreading awareness, but Earth Day is about getting up and making changes too. And this year it’s all about the Green Cities movement - a campaign to educate cities on how to operate more sustainably, from the people who live there to the businesses that trade there and its transport networks.

Happy Earth Day

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