Every Day Is Earth Day

MCTIGUE Architecture on May 31, 2022
Every Day Is Earth Day

Earth Day was last month, April 22nd, to be specific. You may know the story of how it began and why, but if you don’t, it was 1970, a year in the protest-filled days of the Vietnam War and a rising consciousness among our youth that the status quo and our social contracts were due for some serious changes.

A junior senator, a conservative congressman and a young activist came together to organize a “teach-in” to raise awareness about air and water pollution. It was a ground swell idea to join hands and call out “the man”. They picked April 22nd, because it was in between Spring Break and college exams - they saw this as a good moment to get students attention!

“Ins” were popular then - “sit ins”, mostly. There were sit-ins for equal rights, for the anti-war movement, for disabilities, free speech, free love … freedom … heady times in those mostly peaceful protest days.

Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, convinced Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman that a teach-in on campuses with national media attention would be a great idea.

They found Denis Hayes, activist, and he quickly built a national staff to get word out and make this an even larger event, not just at colleges, but in towns and cities, at faith organizations and more. No longer a mere “teach-in”, this was a national event calling attention to the planet and the harm caused by humans. So, they change the name and it became “Earth Day”.

In 1990, some twenty years later, Earth Day was international with 200-million people in 141 countries. Some say this led, directly, to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

In the year 2000, there were 184 countries and hundreds of millions of people participating - along with a new tool, known as the “internet”!

Just ten years later saw a very different environment for Earth Day. Even while it continued growing around the planet, the occasion and movement met, face to face, with climate change deniers, an ambivalent US Legislature, big oil lobbyists and a distracted, somewhat disinterested public. Even so, the event and its supporters forged on. 2010 was not the end of the awareness, activism and agreements that came from so many inspired people around the world, it was a time to recognize that this was a fight for the planet, for people, for all life.

Earth Day was international with 200-million people in 141 countries Fifty-two years later - it is very much alive and well! There now are a billion people engaged in Earth Day. Just about every country on this planet and every corner of it are aligned, to one degree or another, with its original mission, updated for today’s world and heightening crises.

How has it faired? In almost all ways, it is still true to its purpose. Today, some people refer to the week of 4/22 as “Earth Week” and others refer to the entire month of April as Earth Month.

It’s now bigger than ever and seen by many as much more than an event, much more than a movement and so much more than a “teach-in”. For many, it’s another aspect of a rising social, cultural, environmental awareness, one that includes the individual recycling efforts of a family in Michigan, the city planning changes in Miami to deal with rising waters, the aid serving the international diaspora caused by globalization … and even the sharp response to the battle over sovereign rights for nations like Ukraine.

If Earth Day’s impetus was an act of education about the protection of the planet, it’s relevance now is as a unifier around common cause, around global issues, around the connective tissue between Carl Sagan’s “pale blue dot” and all life on it.

A green future is an equitable future, a resilient future, a prosperous future. A green future is essential for all people, for all life on this planet, for the planet itself and all that it shares.

Earth Day, for certain, is not just green, it is all colors, everywhere.

Mctigue Architecture