This article was published on: 10/4/19 11:53 AM
By Will Callaway
The 1960s was a turbulent decade that led to social change across America. A new environmental awareness rose from that decade and culminated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
While global environmental problems can seem overwhelming, fifty years ago the environmental challenges facing cities and communities across the United States were much more localized. Polluted waters, dirty air and diminishing forests were a growing concern, and more than 20 million citizens collectively demanded action on the initial Earth Day.
After that seminal call to action, the federal government established standards that are in place today, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. As a member of the U.S. Senate staff for five years I oversaw and often defended the rules associated with these statutes and the role of the EPA.
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we face the global challenge of climate change. In addition to protecting air, land and water, we now need to take steps to halt and reverse the far-reaching impacts of global warming. But that doesn’t mean all solutions have to be global.
Just as in 1970, many environmental efforts can start right in your local community. With the 50th anniversary taking place this April, Earth Day Network is re-energizing the call to action for local governments and organizations. These actions can include teach-ins at colleges and universities, city-wide gatherings in communities and billions of acts of green, as individual citizens show their commitments to cleaning up the world one gesture at a time.
On April 22, 2020, the clarion call for action should be heard worldwide. Earth Day Network expects hundreds of millions of people around the world to support immediate action to protect the planet’s climate.
What will your role be?
Individual activism is just that — individual. The important thing is to speak up, call for action and demonstrate your belief that protecting the planet and addressing climate change now is imperative.
As individuals, we make choices every day that do or do not contribute to environmental degradation. Our elected leaders do as well. So, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, together we can do our part to protect the planet every day and demand that those in public office and our communities do the same.
Will Callaway is the national campaign director for Earth Day Network.