CELEBRATING EARTH DAY FROM 1970 TO TODAY
In 1970 when the first Earth Day was celebrated, I was a sophomore at Ygnacio Valley High School. We were excited about it and asked everyone to leave their cars at home because at that time air pollution – smog- was the most obvious sign of pollution. The word “ecology” was new and we were just starting to talk about the effects on the earth of all kinds of things we were doing, like litter, over population, and the effect of pesticides on birds and frogs.
In my yearbook from that year there are pictures of our normally full high school parking lot having only a handful of cars parked that day – mostly in the faculty area. We rode bikes and walked and a few people rode horses to school, and there is a photo of a guy on a unicycle!
Shortly after that, our student government asked permission to start a recycling center on campus. We were given a corner of the parking lot and brought in some large containers and by word of mouth and hand made posters we started gathering newspapers, cans and bottles.
My parents were great about letting me use our driveway as the drop off point for our neighborhood. Then students with trucks would come by to pick it up and move it to our recycling center. More and more drop in recycling centers appeared over the years and I am not sure when the one at our high school was closed, but this method to collect recycling went on for many years before curbside recycling started in the 1980’s.
So if we were looking at air pollution and recycling to reduce landfill 40 years ago, what has happened in the last year to make “going green” so popular? Actually the green movement has it’s roots in the late 19th century at the time of the Industrial Revolution. The Sierra Club was founded in 1892! Through the next 100 years the movement changed from a social to a political one around the world. The notion of “think globally, act locally” defines how the energy of the movement moves from the concerns of local citizens up to world leaders.
Certainly the way we all see the world has changed since the ’70’s. It feels much smaller due to the “global economy”. So when Al Gore and others began – yet again- to direct focus on global climate changes and their impact on all of us, it seems we were more able to take it seriously. The fact that many consumer groups and others have made the issue more personal is great, too. When it is pointed out that changing light bulbs to CFL can actually make a difference, it feels doable. So does taking your paper bags back to reuse at the grocery store, or buying canvas bags to use all the time. It gets easier and easier to buy organic and environmentally safe products. You can invest in “green” companies and even pay to offset your excess carbon use.
So does that mean that we just had to make it easier for everyone to do the right thing? That making it smart and hip is all it takes? At this point I am not going to second guess this new trend – just be glad it finally happened and hope it is here to stay.
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