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Earth Day 2020


2020/04/05


Wednesday, April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day began in 1970 from an emerging public consciousness about the state of the planet.

It likely received the spark from the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and the inextricable links between pollution and public health, and sold more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries.

The decades preceding the first Earth Day saw heavy air and water pollution and land polluted with toxic chemicals.  People were becoming aware of how all this pollution was not only negatively affecting the health of birds and animals, but also humans.

The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came from Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI) who had witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA in 1969. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media. He then persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair and recruited 25-year-old Denis Hayes from Harvard to be national coordinator. April 22, falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, was selected as the date.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — went to parks, auditoriums, and other places of assembly to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized events against the deterioration of the environment.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

However, as of March 31, 2020, the Trump Administration weakened auto emissions standards. The Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule will toughen carbon dioxide emissions standards by 1.5% a year through model year 2026, compared to 5% a year under the Obama-era policy.

Several reliable news sources have compiled a list of major changes the Trump administration has made to environmental protections. They include:

National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/03/how-trump-is-changing-science-environment/

The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/climate/trump-fuel-economy.html

CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/25/politics/trump-environmental-rollbacks-list/index.html

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/31/trump-epa-obama-clean-car-rules-climate-change

CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/24/5-major-trump-climate-rollbacks-you-might-have-missed-in-2019.html
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/31/trump-epa-obama-clean-car-rules-climate-change

NPR: https://www.npr.org/2020/01/23/798809951/trump-administration-is-rolling-back-obama-era-protections-for-smaller-waterways
https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824431240/trump-administration-weakens-auto-emissions-rolling-back-key-climate-policy

The Brookings Institute: https://www.brookings.edu/interactives/tracking-deregulation-in-the-trump-era/

The theme for this 50th anniversary celebration – Earth Day 2020 – is action on climate change. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. And without a habitable planet, nothing else is possible. Find more information at www.earthday.org

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