This is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, founded in 1970. Much is being made in the media of the significance of Earth Day and its meaning today. As someone with a passion for environmental issues, I thought I’d lend my voice to the chorus.
In 1970, Earth Day was founded as an angry response to an unacceptable situation. The Potomac River was a cesspool, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught on fire, and air pollution was so bad smog was killing people. People were marching in the streets. The anger translated to activism, and the whole country demanded change. Victories soon followed with the founding of the EPA (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973) just to name a few.
Now, 40 years later, Earth Day has a much different feel. Businesses promote “green” products, school kids plant trees, and there is some sort of Earth Day concert with Sting planned on the DC mall this weekend. These new ways of celebrating Earth Day have somewhat of a celebratory feel about them. And there have certainly been victories to cheer, but it almost feels like Earth Day is taking a victory lap. We need to ask ourselves, did we earn the right to celebrate yet?
With regard to the Chesapeake Bay, I would say no. Scientists and activists alike agree that the Bay is in poor condition. We have a long way to go to get to the point when we can pat ourselves on the back. Back in 1970, politicians feared being voted out of office if they didn’t vote for the environment. Looking back at the last Maryland General Assembly, we can see that is not the case today.
We need environmental stewardship to be completely interwoven into all aspects of our lives. How we drive, what we buy, where our electric comes from. How many of us just think about that once a year during Earth Day? If we want a restored Bay, then every day is going to have to be Earth Day, not just once a year.