40 Years of Earth Day
The following post is part one of our short series in recognition of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.
By Sahar Shirazi
April 22 of this year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s difficult to believe that prior to Senator Gaylord Nelson bringing environmental awareness to the national agenda, there were few federal regulations on pollution, emissions, and toxic byproducts. 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day activities, and their efforts helped lead to emissions standards for cars, regulations on dumping toxins, clean water acts, and most recently, our own clean air act in California.
But not everyone identifies as an environmentalist, and many don’t see the connections between their lives and Earth Day. Images of polar bears and rainforests don’t necessarily resonate with people struggling with their day to day lives, but these are the people affected first and most by climate change. Pollution, toxic byproducts from factories and refineries, mass freeways with little public transportation, and few sources of healthy or sustainable living materials combine to disproportionately affect low income communities of color through health hazards, low paying jobs, poor disaster relief, and substandard living conditions.
We have to start seeing the connections between climate change and the problems in our neighborhoods. We have to take back our environments from polluters and profiteers. The environmental crisis is not just about polar ice caps and deforestation; it’s about our people and our future. We must create equitable, sustainable jobs and communities for all people. Everyone can start small - by recycling, using simple energy conservation tools like power strips and efficient lightbulbs, committing to reusable products rather than plastic water bottles and styrofoam coffee cups, and volunteering. Engaging in your local community and learning about the effects of the environment on your family and neighborhood is a good place to start, and Earth Day is a great day to do it. The Bay Area has multitudes of Earth Day events in every town, so find one near you and reclaim our planet.
For more information or to get involved with the Green Collar Jobs Campaign http://www.ellabakercenter.org/index.php?p=gcjc
For more information on the story of Earth day and it’s anniversary, see the EPA’s website http://www.epa.gov/earthday/
Get your kids involved early in learning about the environment and reusing materials http://holidays.kaboose.com/earth-day/
Sahar is a policy intern with the Green Collar Jobs Campaign at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. She is currently a graduate student in public policy at Mills College in Oakland.
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