In the late 1960’s, the environment was in dire straits after decades of abuse and assault. Our waterways were so polluted that the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire as a matter of routine. Leaded gasoline was the primary fuel used in automobiles, contaminating our atmosphere with lead tainted exhaust. Lack of regulation and enforcement on solid waste led to the creation of super toxic landfills that leached poisons into ground water and aquifers.
The ‘60s had been a decade of activism. Citizens marched in protest of the Vietnam War, in support of women’s equality, and to demand civil rights for all. This engagement lent its enthusiasm to a budding environmental awareness. People were waking up to the degradation of clean air and clean water in the name of economic growth. The spoiling of nature’s beauty seemed too high a price to pay for progress.
Awareness and concern coalesced into the environmental movement and on April 22, 1970 Earth Day was born. The idea of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the first Earth Day was created to highlight lack of governmental responses to a massive oil spill and subsequent environmental plunder of sensitive coastal areas of California. The support of Earth Day 1.0 was nation-wide with more than 20 million people participating in marches, rallies, and protests. Elected officials took note of the growing concern for the environment and worked to pass major legislation including the Clean Air Act (1970), Clean Water Act (1972), and creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency (1970.)
As Earth Day 2017 approaches, the protections that the first Earth Day help bring about are in serious danger of being defunded, significantly weakened, and completely dismantled. The budget for the EPA has been drastically cut by the current administration. Coal companies are now allowed to dump over fill in streams, contaminating peoples’ drinking water with arsenic and other toxins.
You can show your support for our Mother Earth and Earth Day by participating in the 2018 Louisville Earth Walk on April 21, 2018 at the Iroquois Amphitheater. While there, learn about the steps you can take to connect your concern and action with local advocacy groups. Join with other pro-environmental citizens to send a clear signal to our elected officials of our continued desire to protect our planet. Let your action be known and register here. Or get even more attention by forming an Earth Walk team with people from work or school, church, or your neighborhood. Earth Day is every day, but especially on April 21st.