Earth Day began back in 1970 in response to some severe threats to the environment. Pollution was rampant and nothing was unaffected. In the Northeast in the late 1960s, pollution was so bad, rivers were actually burning.
The Cuyahoga River in Ohio was the most famous to burn, but in 1969, the Buffalo River caught fire as well. Earth Day was officially founded in the US by Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in.
Lauren Makeyenko, Director Of Education at Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, explains. "Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to kind of kick start the environmental movement after Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" book was published and a lot of movement was moving toward the environment and cleaning it up from some industrial legacy. "
Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring ", published in 1962, is considered to be the catalyst for the modern environmental movement, and still stands as an important and relevant work today.
"She was looking at things that industry and business was saying we have to make the profit, we don't care or we'll look the other way was basically what was going on," recalls Mark Carra, Beaver Meadows' Naturalist In Residence. "Rachel said no, this is harming everything around us, and once we lose it, can we get it back?"
Carson's call to action and the ensuing Earth Day have made an indelible impact on the world. Environmental awareness rose to new heights. Later in 1970, Richard Nixon formed the EPA, and after that major amendments were made to the Clean Air Act of 1963, and the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. T
hough great strides have since been made, there is still much work to do. The environment is now threatened by politics as well as pollution.
"Just looking at our local area and the Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative, which is funding for all of the clean up of all of the areas of concern of the Great Lakes. That's been zeroed out in the current budget, and we're hoping that some of it is reinstated when the budget is finally passed, but right now, there is no money for protecting our lakes," said Makeyenko.
In the end, it falls on each individual to take responsibility for the earth that nourishes us all. Though the task often seems daunting, we cannot shirk our obligation to our Mother. Carra believes our very existence depends on it.
"I love this statistic: Of all of the living species of animals on the planet, being larger than a Bumblebee makes up one percent.Think about that. You think the human race is indestructible? You're in grave danger there, because all of the small things are going to make it through our stupidity, I have to put it that way," Carra said.
"There's still a lot going on around Earth Day," Makeyenko says. "And it should be relevant every day. I mean, it's not only for us, but the generations to come. "
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