The Birth of Earth Day and the Fight for a Sustainable Future



The observance of World Earth Day began in 1970 with the aim of preventing environmental pollution. In the preceding decades, a concerning trend emerged in America. People consumed natural resources at an alarming rate, with little regard for the consequences. Oil spills fouled the ocean waters, and factory smoke polluted the air. Gradually, a realization dawned: these actions were not signs of prosperity, but rather threats to our very existence. Rachel Carson’s eye-opener work, Silent Spring, published in 1962, served as a wake-up call. It exposed the dangers of environmental degradation and the harmful effects of pesticides. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin shared these concerns, particularly after a massive oil spill devastated Santa Barbara.

He rallied students to advocate for environmental cleanliness and spoke out against wars, which often cause catastrophic pollution through air, water, and soil contamination. Senator Nelson, along with other activists, mobilized young people to educate the public about pollution and its control methods. They designated April 22nd as World Earth Day, aiming to involve everyone in the mission for environmental cleanliness. Their efforts bore fruit as a large number of people participated in campaigns for a cleaner environment. Protests were staged against the expansion of polluting industries and factories. These pioneers of environmental awareness opposed the proliferation of polluting industries, the use of harmful pesticides, deforestation for human settlements, and many other detrimental practices. The movement gained momentum in 1970.

Public pressure compelled world governments to enact environmental protection laws. The Clean Water Act was a significant outcome of this movement. Subsequent decades saw the passage of additional laws, such as the ban on DDT, the Clean Air Act, and legislation focused on resource conservation and endangered species protection. Governments across the globe undertook initiatives to ensure the survival of plant and animal life. The 1990s saw a shift towards promoting recycling and waste reduction. Instead of throwing away plastic, steel, and glass, these materials were encouraged to be reused through recycling. This approach offered a twofold benefit: preserving natural resources and preventing harmful toxins from being released into the air when plastic is burned. Additionally, the concept of a green economy, where financial resources are used to support environmental sustainability, gained traction. India began celebrating Earth Day in 2010.

Our culture has always held a deep reverence for nature, particularly trees. Trees are seen as embodying the cycle of life – birth, death, and rebirth. Each deity in our pantheon is associated with a part of a tree. Lord Vishnu is said to reside in the roots, while Shiva dwells in the leaves. Trees like Pipal, Tulsi, Banyan, and Banana are not only integral to our religious practices but also essential for providing oxygen, medicine, and other resources. They are an essential part of our lives. A simple story illustrates the value of trees. A tree provides shade with its leaves, support with its trunk, food with its fruits, and life-giving oxygen.

It offers companionship in childhood, sustenance in adulthood, and shelter in old age. Even in winter, when other resources are scarce, a tree offers its branches and roots for warmth. Trees are like family, and that’s why the Indian government emphasizes planting more trees for a better future. It is true if every one of us plants one tree in our life then there would no scarcity of natural source in future. So sow seeds in soil for prosperity. Not only this use single use plastic and try to carry things in jute sacks or small cloth made satchels instead of polythene. To save the world from plastic menace this year earth Day shall be observed under the theme; Planet vs Plastic.

[The writer is Assistant Professor in English and NSS.PO in GDC, Bishnah.]