Earth Day 2011: Forty Years Into The Movement To Save Earth

The message is loud and clear: Our planet needs help to sustain us and we need to stand up and be counted. The Earth today faces many problems; global warming is one of the major ones. Other problems include pesticide overuse, unplanned drilling of oil-wells, reckless deforestation, overfishing of certain delicate marine species, denudation of coral reefs and expansion of deserts. People have been fighting against all of these evils, but mostly their acts have been isolated ones, separated from the rest. Earth Day is a concept, which intends to amalgamate all these pro-environmental activities into one.

Earth Day
The 2011 Logo

The concept of Earth Day

The birth of Earth Day took place in the year 1970 and the US Senator Gaylord Nelson was responsible for it. It was organized as a teach-in program happening in thousands of school and college campuses, amongst other places. The challenges were many. The five sectors identified for improvement were the internal combustion engine, pesticide pollution, detergent pollution, aircraft pollution and non-disposable, non-recyclable containers.

In the next forty years, the movement has grown, especially within the United States but also across the world. The challenges have grown more diverse. In view of the increasing influence, the United Nations designated April 22nd as International Mother Earth Day’, or Earth Day’. The Week starting from the 16th is called Earth Week’.

Major Landmarks in the Environmental Movement

Let’s see two major early successes of the movement.

The first success came in the form of the Clean Air Act Amendment in 1970, which required automobile emissions to be cut by 90% by 1975. This involved huge subsidies from the government and also the commercial implementation of various pollution control measures, which were known but not implemented. This brought a drastic reduction in the emission levels, bringing down carbon monoxide levels by 96% in these four decades. The effect of this change can even be seen in the Antarctic snow.

Next was banning of chlorinated hydrocarbons used as pesticides. Principal amongst these was DDT. This was successfully achieved all around the world in 1972, but there are still parts that use DDT both as a pesticide and as an insecticide against mosquito larvae. DDT is effective, but does more harm to the environment than good. It kills off creatures, like earthworms, in the immediate area, and then affects acquatic life in waters in which it is dumped. Bio-magnification through the food chain affects creatures as high up as eagles. Similar action was taken for phosphate-rich detergent pollutants.

Earth Day 2011: Aims, Hopes and Political Will

Earth Day 2011 aims to achieve A Billion Acts of Green‘, a pledge campaign aiming to get a billion people from around the world to pledge their allegiance to the environment. The key word is awareness.

A Billion Acts of Green

Issues remain. Global warming is a key concern, especially the major influence humans are having in accelerating it.

Political will seems to be the most precious resource across the world, since legislations is the best way to impose regulations on a wide scale, and as Al Gore once put it, Political will is a renewable resource’.

Published by

Debjyoti Bardhan

Is a science geek, currently pursuing some sort of a degree (called a PhD) in Physics at TIFR, Mumbai. An enthusiastic but useless amateur photographer, his most favourite activity is simply lazing around. He is interested in all things interesting and scientific.