Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Earth Day – Then and Now

Debra Benson

Growing up on what is truly one of the most beautiful college campuses, Michigan State University, I was a pre-teen when the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Most memorable was watching the CBS Evening News, when Walter Cronkite (who, in an opinion poll taken in 1972 named him as “the most trusted man in America” – more so than the president at that time), reported how thousands of communities and college campuses, and an estimated 10% of American citizens (roughly 20 million) took action to draw attention to the environmental crisis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=13&v=WbwC281uzUs&feature=emb_title

Many were dismissed as “tree huggers”, but Earth Day 1970 was a galvanizing force that launched science-based, data-driven environmental. political, and legal initiatives that resulted in individual and community awareness and action, as well as the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the development of the Environmental Protection Agency. This was all accomplished in the backdrop of an immensely divided country.

Sound familiar? Fast forward to April 22nd, 2020 – the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day – similar backdrop, enormous challenges, more science-based research, abundant data analytics at our fingertips, global health crisis, technological ‘advancements’.

How do we celebrate Earth Day 2020 in a “social distancing” environment? Annually, thousands of communities and universities coordinate, facilitate and celebrate environmental initiatives. Many organizations are celebrating well beyond April 22nd – for the week, for the month, and beyond.

• Google your community’s website or local college and include “Earth Day 2020”. Chances are you will find local initiatives available to you.

• Other resources for locating virtual events include https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/ Click on Find a Digital Earth Day Event.

• Allow me one additional “shout out” for celebrating Earth Day 2020 – the Virtual 2020 Earth Day Conference: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies https://earthday.nelson.wisc.edu/ NOTE: This event is Monday, April 20th, 2020. Gaylord Nelson was the founder of the first Earth Day. American Heritage magazine would later describe the event as “one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy.” Film footage on the CBS Evening News: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3RCPAtmpv8
More about Gaylord Nelson: https://nelson.wisc.edu/about/nelson-legacy.php

Wishing everyone health, wellness, and peace during this challenging time.

Debra Benson at Michigan State University
Debra Benson at Michigan State University

About The Author

Debra Benson

HE Sales Representative at Cambridge University Press...

View profile >

Latest Comments

Have your say!