April 22, 1970 – the day of the vernal equinox. I was only a toddler then, but growing up, I didn’t have much knowledge of Earth Day as an annual event. Growing up in the 70’s in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania, my world was a little sheltered as my neighborhood was small. I carved out regular play areas in the woods near my house, I rode my bike regularly through a nearby State Park and I splashed around in a neighborhood fishing hole, unaware of the problems of pollution.
Thank goodness someone was paying attention. All across the US, people were organizing Earth Day events to bring about awareness and change for the benefit of our planet. Some of those early efforts provided kids like me with Natural Science education such as articles in the school’s Weekly Reader publication. I remember a show on Saturday morning called the Big Blue Marble. Even the weeping Native American commercial stuck with me as a kid. My parents were an influence on my Earth appreciation. We all enjoyed trail walks in the woods, and campfire cook-outs. Composting and keeping an organic vegetable garden became a way of life at home, but I never put those outreach efforts and parental attitudes together with Earth Day until I was an adult.
In 1970, the Venango Conservation District was not even a decade old. The district concentrated on soil health and working with local farmers to achieve soil conservation. In the 1970’s the district grew to working with invasive species concerns and eventually with water quality concerns in Venango County, including environmental education and outreach.
Some consider the 1970’s the Environmental Decade”. After all, a number of laws came to effect in that decade. The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, The Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, The Surface Mining Control and Reclamations Act were all put into law in the 1970’s. In 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was formed. That was a lot of change for ten years.
Meanwhile, Earth Day has grown into a global celebration. In 1990 a Global Earth Day was organized. More than 200 million people globally participated in Earth Day events that year. In 2016, the Paris Climate Agreement was signed on Earth Day. In recent years, more than one billion people participate in Earth Day events making Earth Day the biggest civic event in the world. Popular Earth Day events might include river clean-up events, tree plantings and outdoor educational activities.
This year, in 2020, as Earth Day is upon us, we are dealing with a major lifestyle change in social distancing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Gathering together for this 50th anniversary of Earth Day will have to wait, but that does not mean that I can’t do my thing at home to celebrate Earth Day. Weather permitting, I will take a walk outside, continue work on my pollinator garden and tune in for a nature documentary or two. I can access a list of things I can do at home at www.eathday.org/eath-day-at-home/. I hope you join me in your own at-home Earth Day activities. Let’s keep the Earth appreciation outreach and attitudes going.