Earth Day began in 1970. At that time, approximately, 20 million people across the U.S celebrated this day. Now, billions of people from all over the world take part in the celebration, by finding ways to help the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Gina McCarthy, said “It was really an eye-opening experience for me who was a self-described self-centered teenager during the first Earth Day rallies. Not only were people trying to influence decisions on the Vietnam War, but they were beginning to really focus attention on issues like air pollution, the contamination they were seeing in the land, and the need for federal action.”
According to McCarthy, the environment was in ruins. Factories legally spewed black clouds of pollutants into the air and dumped toxic waste into streams. During an interview with National Geographic, she recalled the horrible conditions of the environment back then. “I can remember the picture of the Cuyahoga River being on fire.” She referred to the Ohio waterway polluted with debris, oil, sludge, industrial wastes, and sewage that erupted in flames on June 22, 1969. Of course, these problems weren’t exactly at the top of the “U.S Political Agenda” list.
U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, campaigned to protect it during the 1960s but unfortunately it had no avail. In 1969 Nelson said “It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air and they did so with spectacular exuberance.” By the end of 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had been established, and efforts to improve air and water quality were gaining political attention.
Environmental problems today are less immediate than dirty air, toxic water, and a hole in the ozone layer. McCarthy said “As we become more industrialized and our supply chains become less transparent. It can be more difficult to understand the environmental consequences of our actions.” She believes that it’s one of the most significant public health issues of our time.
McCarthy is involved with implementing large portions of President Barack Obama’s controversial climate action plan, such as carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, which the agency says will help protect millions of Americans from the dangers of a warming planet.
Although there is more progress to be made, McCarthy stated that “Earth Day” has made a huge impact on the environment. The nation’s air and water have become dramatically cleaner. Lead has disappeared from gasoline. She said “Really, it all began with Earth Day and the ability to have a grassroots movement that demanded that we keep people safe while we continue to grow the economy.”
How can you help the environment?
Simple acts such as recycling, car-pooling, paying bills electronically, and “going green” can make a huge impact. For more tips go HERE.