On April 22, 1970, millions of Americans came together and sparked a national environmental protection movement that we continue to celebrate.
In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity and industry emitted smoke and disposed of sludge with little thought to environmental impact, according to a history of Earth Day at EarthDay.org. Americans drove ineffienct gas-guzzling cars powered by leaded gas.
Rachel Carson's New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962 raised public awareness of the link between pollution and public health.
Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson is credited with bringing Earth Day to life.
"More than 50 years ago, a generation rallied to confront the environmental crises they faced. They took action in hopes that those in power would listen," said President Joe Biden in an Earth Day proclamation. "Today, a new generation is sounding the alarm louder than ever, demanding that world leaders act. It is in all our interests to rise to that challenge and let our legacy be one of action."
Biden encouraged "all Americans to engage in programs and activities that will promote an understanding of environmental protection, the urgency of climate change, and the need to create a healthier, safer, more equitable future for all people."
Here's a few ideas to celebrate Earth Day today and every day.
Agriculture celebrates Earth Day in many ways.
“Every day is Earth Day in the agriculture industry,” said American Soybean Association President Kevin Scott, a soybean grower from South Dakota. “This planet is not only our home, but also a farmer’s office. U.S. soy growers are committed to doing more with less to contribute to the sustainability of our environment, society and economy. We continue to look toward innovative technology, partnerships, and policy to pave the way as leaders in sustainability.”
By 2025, U.S. soybean farmers are on track to:
- Reduce land use impact by 10%.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10%.
- Reduce soil erosion by 25%.
- Increase energy use efficiency by 10%.
National Farmers Union is marking Earth Day with a webinar, The Meat of the Matter: Climate Change and Beef. During this online conversation, a rancher, beef processor and restauranteur will discuss the ways climate change is affecting the meat supply chain, how they're adapting to those challenges and what they're doing to minimize their climate impact. Panelists include ranchers from Minnesota and Colorado, the CEO of Cypress Valley Meat Company and the director of partnerships from Zero Foodprint.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said agricultural producers are producing more food with the same amount of water and fertilizer as 30 years ago. Growers are also producing more food using less farmland.
"We are not kicking back and declaring our sustainability job done, however. Just the opposite. Agriculture’s achievements over the last few decades give us greater confidence that we can continue to be part of climate-smart solutions," Duvall said in The Zipline. "Environmental stewardship is central to our calling as farmers and ranchers."
To see how we've changed - or not - here's a news report from the first Earth Day in 1970.