The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Earth Day Turns 40

Posted by demkid on April 22, 2010

A year ago, I briefly wrote about the origins of Earth Day and the current state of the environmental movement.  I talked about how Earth Day has lost much of its meaning, primarily because the environment isn’t high on the list of issues that concern the public, and thus, politicians are slow to respond.  Even though this year we celebrate the 40th anniversary, little, if anything, has changed in the level of environmental consciousness.  I still fear that it will take a large disaster to force people to think about the environment as they did back in 1970.

The Washington Post has a good article today that goes into more detail about the origins of Earth Day.  Also discussed are the huge environmental successes that came out of the early movement, and the current “midlife crisis” that it’s facing:

But today, American environmentalism is struggling in a new kind of fight.

The problems are more slippery: pollutants like greenhouse-gas emissions, which don’t stink or sting the eyes. And current activists, by their own admission, rarely muster the kind of collar-grabbing immediacy that the first Earth Day gave to environmental causes.

“I don’t think we’ve come up with a good way in the conservation movement of making it real for people,” said Arturo Sandoval, who was 22 when he organized activities across the West on the first Earth Day.

In 1970, “you could say, ‘Have you been down to the river lately?’ And people would say, ‘Oh my God, I don’t even let my kids go there,’ “said Sandoval, now 62 and still working on environmental causes in Albuquerque. “Global warming, to most people, is an abstract issue.”

Sadly, I don’t see a significant percentage of Americans caring about the conservation movement in the near future.


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