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Opinion — Protecting the environment through Earth Day

God created the Earth and blessed each of us with the ability to protect our planet by keeping it clean through recycling, conservation and preservation.

In 1969 peace activist John M. Connell proposed a day honoring the Earth and promoting peace at the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. It was to be observed on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed a national environmental teach-in April 22, 1970, having Denis Hayes, a young activist and Harvard University student as the national coordinator. Nelson believed teach-ins could serve as a method to get the word out about environmental causes via college campus speech tours.

Consequently, Denis Hayes renamed the teach-ins Earth Day. Senator Nelson’s inspiration was the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, subsequently, establishing the non-profit Environmental Teach-In, Inc. As national coordinator Hayes felt changing the name of teach-ins to Earth Day would garner more support to environmental causes which included finances and extensive manpower.

Furthermore, college students weren’t the only people that the coalition wanted to reach. The activists included mothers who wanted to do something to improve the world for their children and K-12 educators. It takes one person at a time in the broader community to affect real change.

In addition, Hayes focused his attention on getting environmental education materials out to K-12 teachers reaching out to the National Education Association providing materials to engage youth in Earth Day activities such as beach clean-up, tree planting and recycling.

The first Earth Day in the United States had an assembly of 20 million Americans in attendance. Many non-environmental groups participated, for example, the United Auto Workers(UAW). In fact, the largest source of funding came from the UAW. The United Auto Worker’s leader Walter Reuther was the founding member of the Coalition for Clean Air which successfully lobbied for the Clean Air Act of 1970.

Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal for his efforts. In 1990 Hayes expanded Earth Day events to 141 nations globally. On Earth Day 2016 the Paris Agreement was signed by the U.S., the U.K., China and 20 other countries which met a requirement for the climate protection treaty adopted by 195 nations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Today, 192 countries observe Earth Day and is organized by a nonprofit called EARTHDAY.ORG (formerly Earth Day Network).

Earth Day is now the largest secular day of protest in the world with more than a billion people participating in events every year.

As we know, the Adopt A Highway program involves concerned citizens cleaning up litter along highways. Over the last decade I have noticed more trash being thrown on the sides of roads. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt that maybe the wind blew the trash out of the back of the truck or the window of the car, by accident. Now, I don’t feel that way. They just throw it out. If the littering laws were enforced more in Virginia with stiffer penalties, violators would be held accountable, if you can identify them.

We can all do our part to keep our planet clean and leave a lasting legacy of stewardship for our children and their children. God gave us this grand home to live on so let’s do everything in our power to maintain the Earth in the state it was intended.

Judy Moore, a tour guide at The Central High Museum lives in Wylliesburg, VA and can be reach ed at v5agabond2@gmail.com.