0727 GMT May 20, 2019
Earth Day is just around the corner, and you still have time to decide how to participate. This annual event is always celebrated on April 22 and was first established by Gaylord Nelson, a politician and environmentalist from Wisconsin who served as a United States senator.
Starting as a grassroots movement in 1970, Earth Day began an awakening of environmental activism. Now observed globally, Earth Day is often extended over a full week to include activities focused on improving the environment, auburnpub.com wrote.
According to the Earth Day Network website (earthday.org), the first Earth Day activities included teach-ins on university campuses, and people gathered in public places talking about the environment and seeking ways to defend the planet. Twenty million Americans from coast to coast, across all political and socioeconomic levels, participated and realized their common interest was the environment.
So much concern was generated about the amount of environmental pollution during the first Earth Day that on Dec. 2, 1970, the US Environmental Protection Agency was formed.
After 20 years of celebration in the United States, Earth Day expanded globally in 1990 and saw participation from over 200 million people in 141 countries. The focus of Earth Day 1990 was increasing recycling efforts worldwide.
Earth Day 2000 saw 5,000 environmental groups in 184 countries reaching hundreds of millions of people focus on global warming and the need for clean energy. Earth Day 2010 resulted in a climate rally at the National Mall (a landscaped park within the US National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, DC), introduced a global tree planting project now called the Canopy Project, and engaged 22,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day.
The Canopy Project is aiming to plant 7.8 billion trees, which is one for every person on Earth, to recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020. Trees can help stabilize the land, filter the air and reduce the effects of a changing climate. Depending on the tree species and other factors, on average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four, according to Environment Canada.
As Americans observed Earth Day in 2016, the Gallup Poll found that 42 percent of Americans identified themselves as environmentalists, which was down from 76 percent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Earth Day is a reminder to consider the threats our planet faces and seek ways to protect the environment. There are things each of us, as individuals, can do to manage and reduce our environmental impact.
This year’s theme, according to the official Earth Day website at arthday.org/campaigns/endangered-species/earthday2019, is ‘Protect Our Species’.
The focus is 14 species ranging from those that fly to those that live on the land and in the oceans; some are plants, others are animals, but each has a critical role to play in nature. For every species known to be endangered, there are others yet to be identified or discovered and their ability to survive is directly linked to climate change, deforestation, habitat loss and pollution, to name a few impacts created by human activity.
Take some time this Earth Day on Monday to consider how your activities may be contributing to climate change, and take steps towards correcting these actions. If we each do a little bit over time, we can slow these negative impacts and hopefully provide a better environment for future generations.
*Judy Wright is the senior agriculture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County, New York.