An Earth Day for 2021
Yesterday marked the 51st Earth Day! I’m sure that there are many sites that will list tips to reduce your carbon footprint and be a better steward of the Earth. This is not that kind of post.
Did you know that the first Earth Day was a massive protest? What started as a nationwide environmental teach-in became a 20 million person protest, demanding the US government do more for the environment. The Earth Day protest proved successful; over the next few years, the US enacted a slew of environmental agencies and standards. Here’s a sample of what happened within the next three years after the first Earth Day:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (1970)
- Clean Air Act (1970)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970)
- Banning of DDT (1972)
- Clean Water Act (1972)
- Endangered Species Act (1973)
- Leaded Gasoline Phase-Out (1973)
While we have many environmental protections in place, we have a lot of work to do to ensure everyone has access to clean water, pollution-free air, and opportunities to recreate in beautiful parks. Most often, it is underserved and underrepresented communities that suffer environmental catastrophes. We don’t have to look far back in history for examples: the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Flint water crisis from 2014-2019, and the ongoing battles against the Dakota Access Pipeline clearly show how environmental issues intersect with racism and poverty.
While it’s too early to truly celebrate any recent victories in social and environmental justice, I find this spring more hopeful than the last. Where is the hope I speak of? Hope is found in every piece of trash we compost, in every company we hold accountable, and every environmental act our governments pass. Hope is found in standing in solidarity with protestors, donating to bail funds, and fighting white supremacy. Hope is found whenever we view environmentalism with an intersectional lens; it’s all connected, as they say, in a loop that never ends.
Learn more about the history of Earth Day:
EPA History: Earth Day (EPA)
Earth Day at 50: A look at the past, present, and future (NOAA)
Environmental & Climate Justice (NAACP)
Feminism and environmentalism go hand in hand (Greenpeace)
Why Queer Liberation Is an Environmental Justice Issue (Earth Justice)
How to Unite the Fight for Racial Equity and Environmental Action (NRDC)