When you think of Earth Day, you may reminisce about times in elementary, middle, and high school when teachers and students came together to honor, celebrate, and learn about ways to preserve the beauty and health of the planet. You know -- re-use, reduce, recycle mantras called for kids to create some cool project or invention out of plastic bottles and cardboard tubes, or classes would choose a public outdoor space to clean up and "adopt," or students would learn about water conservation, pollution, and energy sources. Indeed, educational institutions play a central role in Earth Day awareness and observance; but did you realize that colleges and universities played a crucial role in its originating year, 1970? According to the Earthday.org, "Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values."
The event didn't become a major annual holiday right away, however. But the 1970 event did mobilize the modern environmentalist movement that we know today. It catalyzed the creation of the EPA and Clean Air, Clear Water, and Endangered Species Acts. And environmental issues became a mainstay in the academic conversation in graduate and undergraduate programs throughout North America.
Then, in 1990, another huge Earth Day was organized by environmental leaders, and it went global this time. After 1990, Earth Day began to resemble its contemporary form, with children, parents, advocates, environmentalists, and activists across the globe celebrating and participating in Earth Day as a day of action and education.
Today, it seems like the graduate students play somewhat less of a role in the Earth Day activism of the 1970s. But I may just not be aware of what is being done on college and university campuses. What is the buzz around Fordham, or around your campus? As a graduate student, how are you recognizing Earth Day today? And, what are your thoughts about it? What role should we as graduate students play in fostering enthusiasm for the day, and in taking action to protect our planet? Please write in to let me know!
Also, here are some cool Earth Day links!
- Slate.com: 15 Facts about Our Planet
- CNN.com: An Earth Day quiz
- EarthDayNY: Check out what our city is doing for Earth Day!
- CBSnews.com on the 2013 Earth Day Google Doodle
Have a good Earth Day, everyone!