With Monday’s 43rd celebration of Earth Day, the msnbc logo turned green to inspire individuals and organizations to demonstrate their commitment to environmental protection and sustainability.
“One of the most important things about Earth Day is it is a time for people to do something different in their lives,” Denise Hamler, division director of Green Business and Green Festival Programs, told msnbc.com.
Hamler said she asked people leaving the New York City Green Festival, which lasted from Friday until Sunday this past weekend, to make personal pledges to help the environment, such as planting a garden, becoming part of a community group, or resolving to buy only fair trade coffee and chocolate.
“We make those resolutions just like we do on New Year’s Eve,” she said. “This is the beginning of our new year…to do better for ourselves and the planet.”
Earth Day New York chose to focus on global climate change and its local impact in light of the destruction leveled by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey last October. The topic is particularly “salient” to people after several blizzards, hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions have swept the nation, John Oppermann, deputy director of Earth Day New York, told msnbc.com.
“People are feeling the effect of climate change when they haven’t in the past,” he said.
The fight for a clean environment continues in 2013 with several recent ecological disasters that have caused concerns across the country. Most recently, on April 17, at least 14 people were killed and more than 160 were wounded when a fertilizer plant exploded in West, Texas. The explosion could have released dangerous levels of anhydrous ammonia, which can cause severe burns and even death, into the area.
In central Arkansas, ExxonMobil has worked to clear 12,000 barrels of tar sands oil and water after a pipeline burst and soaked the town of Mayflower.
The State Department is reportedly close to completing a review of the controversial extension of the Keystone XL pipeline. Upon approval from the Obama administration, the proposal would transport oil from Canadian tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Environmentalists believe the president must reject the pipeline proposal in order for him to remain faithful to his renewed commitment to combat climate change.
The first Earth day occurred in 1970 in almost every major city and town in the country with the first massive nationwide protest against the pollution of the environment. That year on April 22, some students went to school wearing gas masks, the automobile was banned in some cities including New York, and the House and Senate adjourned in Washington for a day, according to the Earth Day Network’s website. Gaylord Nelson, who was a Wisconsin senator at the time, took a lead role in organizing the first Earth Day–what was then an environmental teach-in–by focusing on widespread environmental degradation. Nelson had witnessed the results of a 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Denis Hayes, an environmental activist, took Earth Day international in 1990 when he organized events in 141 countries. Now, more than 175 countries celebrate Earth Day, which is internationally coordinated by the Earth Day Network.
The public outcry led to political action: Congress passed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act, and created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Earth Day 2013 around the country
More than 40 years later, the annual observance is a global event with more than one billion people taking part in a multitude of activities to encourage people to care for the planet.
- For four days, New York City’s Grand Central Terminal has held live performances, children’s activities, and sustainability talks inside Vanderbilt Hall. The events, free and open to the public, begin Friday and end Monday at 6 p.m.
- On Earth Day, Sims Recycling Solutions attempts to break a Guinness World Record for the “most consumer electronics recycled within 24 hours” in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, and Germany, according to the company’s website.
- Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Baltimore Green Week from April 19 until April 27 in Maryland. About 5,000 people are expected to take part in environmental lectures, workshops, tours, and film screenings.
- The Earth Day Network joined with Union Station in Washington, D.C., to create Earth Month, which began on April 1 and will last until April 30. Each day, a farmers’ market, green fashion show, film festival, alternative energy demonstrations, and exhibitors are featured at the train station.
- “Think Green & Redeem” is the theme of this year’s celebration at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. Campus and neighboring community organizations will speak about efforts to conserve and protect the state’s coastal environment on April 26.
- Alabama’s longest continually-running Earth Day event will take place on April 27 in Birmingham with hands-on, interactive games provided by the Botanical Gardens.
- Staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will discuss seabird protection efforts with pilots and attendees at the Pacific Coast Dream Machine Show in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on April 27 and 28.