From the Vault: Is Earth Day Dead?

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April 22 will mark the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, but does it still have the same effect it did in the 70s? We asked the biggest names in the environmental industry to answer the question, “Is Earth Day Dead?”

Frances Beinecke

President of the Natural Resources Defense Council

Earth Day continues to play a vital role in nurturing environmental stewardship in America. Every year it brings people together at recycling centers, community gardens and rallies in support of new safeguards. But it also does something else: It provides a touchstone to see how far we have come in restoring the Earth and how we can best protect it for the future.

I was in college when the first Earth Day took place in 1970, and I still remember the dirty air that hung over cities back then. Raw sewage floated in the New York Harbor, and rivers had become dumping grounds for industrial toxins. The organizers of Earth Day broke through this haze with a surge of optimism. Sure the planet was a mess, they said, but a group of dedicated people can turn it around.

They were right. The environmental movement that grew out of the first Earth Day—including NRDC which opened that same year—succeeded in securing the bedrock laws that have made our air safer, our water cleaner and our landscapes better protected.

READ: The Real Captain Planet

Earth Day events give us a chance to celebrate that progress, but also to roll up our sleeves and start solving today’s problems. The planet is facing more sweeping challenges than ever before: things like climate change, ocean degradation, and the prevalence of toxins in our food and household products. Such complex forces will be hard to reverse. But the optimism of that original Earth Day still holds true: with enough passion and commitment, we can turn it around.

I know that passion exists. Earth Day is not the only day Americans think about the planet, anymore than Valentine’s Day is the only day we proclaim our love. People from all walks of life have embraced green solutions, and environmental stewardship has become more pervasive than even the Earth Day founders could have imagined.

As Earth Day approaches this year, I urge you to think about the environmental actions you take in your everyday life—switching to energy efficient light bulbs, using public transit more often, eating less meat or fish—and take it to the next level. I also encourage you to write to your elected officials in support of the environmental policies that matter most to you. Positive, solutions-oriented actions like these confirm that the spirit of Earth Day endures.

More on Frances: Frances Beinecke, who served on President Obama’s National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental organization with 1.3 million members and activists across the United States.

Next: Alexandra Cousteau – Explorer, Water Advocate

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  1. From the article I don’t know if the question is rhetorical or not.
    But if you have to ask it probably is “dead” in the holiday sense.
    Maybe when the economy gets fixed more people will have the time to care for our external environment instead of paying bills. 2cents.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more Karen! Green is losing its grassroots. It’s great that you and Opportunity Green are calling attention to the ‘real’ eco-friendly companies and innovations leading the green business revolution.

  3. Amanda, you asked the most important question and got a side bar answers. Sadly I’ve seen what we all all don’t what to see. After 2006, I was full on taking action and was the area production manager for two Green organizations, they are now one, and have lost most of their motivate to get large groups out this week. No real person what’s to answer this question now as we know Going Green has lost a little color.
    I went to an important movie and the only audiences there– was the Generation of the 60’s, and a few 70’s Gens. Teens came in and left, they thought it was a doomsday sci-fi movie. And the College age, power house group was not there! Why? Sidebar- Good news today, ASU does have real good programs this week; for students going into green business. Business today are taping into what customers want: I want to feel good buying green items. Buy more…etc. That will dye next year as a new need will be created to make us feel good, and buy more. The main statement is: “If it’s not at my front door knocking it down, I will not be motivated to do anything big today”. We all really know that it will be knocking at the front door soon. See what’s happening in the Midwest today. The answer is, it’s not sooner, It will be later that the majority will clearly see what we have done to this limited small planet. The masses will start to put the dots together and yes going green is very important. Too bad there are not reading this today. We are, so keep going and going, tell your story to one to one or even a small group. Later it will be a much bigger group. And you College group now parents with kids, what are you going to tell them???

  4. Yes it is, because everyone that “promotes’ and supposedly supports it, flyes around the world (footprint!!) as if that was not an issue.Do I sense some doublestandard? Duh!

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