Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day? Yes, I agree that we should be able to recognize the importance of the environment in our daily behavior. But, having that one day to commemorate Mother Nature allows us to collectively participate in the movement and discuss further steps. Environmental awareness is of vital importance especially in today’s day and age where we have realized that all systems are inextricably linked. Public health, ecological conditions and social well being are not separate entities and to find solutions to problems in any of these spheres requires an understanding and application of holistic approach.
Earth Day began in the 1970’s, a period of environmental enlightenment in the United States. Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic Senator and an environmental conservationist, started the event to educate the people about pressing ecological issues. Along with Hayes, a university student, they organized teach-ins on a national level and drove the protest movements against government inaction. The intention was to expand people’s understanding of ecology and enlarge the definition of environmentalism. During the 1960 and 70’s industrialization was paramount and the impact of air and water pollution on social welfare was becoming prevalent. Scientific research on the harmful effects of chemicals on human health was being carried out and it was during this time that Rachel Carson’s monumental book, Silent Spring, which outlined the hazardous impact of DDT, was released. The green awakening allowed people to see the linkages between the industrial world and human well-being. In America, a wide variety of significant legislation was passed during this time including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, as well as the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental laws provided protection of certain natural entities by instituting accountability for public goods.
Earth Day marks the advent of environmental movement in North America. In the 1990’s the event grew to include over 140 countries. Events focusing on environmental education like community clean-ups, tree-planting, recycling activities are organized on the local level on this day. The theme for Earth Day 2012 is mobilization, a very apt subject in wake of worldwide political protests and uprisings which set the context of people fighting for their legitimate rights. The act of mobilization encompasses planning and cohesive action which is direly needed on a local, national and global front from citizens as well as the government.
With the pertinent issue of climate change in focus, the importance of such a day is made even greater. The basis of the movement has been education and action. Environmental issues are scientific and require empirical proof. Such information needs to be translated to the general public so they can recognize the broader impact on their daily lives. Unless one connects the dots and become directly exposed to the effects of issues like climate change, it is highly likely that one will be motivated to act.
There are numerous environmental issues that people advocate for such as, stopping deforestation, pesticide use control, industrial management, air and water pollution, chemical disposal etc. Earth Day creates a unified platform for all activists to come together and realize the larger movement. Activities are organized all across the country to encourage citizen participation. In Mississauga, Earth Day Eco-Fest, E-Waste Drive, book swaps, clothing drive and park clean-ups brought the local community together.
Canada, being a developed nation, falls in the category of countries with mounting ecological footprints. The energy and water consumption per capita is fairly high and so is the abundance of natural resources. Our waste management program and focus on recycling has reduced the amount of residential garbage that gets discarded over the past decade. It is clear that Canada needs to continue on the path of environmental stewardship to regain its title of an environmental champion. So, let’s maintain the message of this special day throughout the year. The movement started with recognizing that there is environmental problems, spreading awareness about the issues, and now the next step is to act upon the knowledge.