Earth Day—Celebrating a Healthy Environment
According to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, Earth Day, which always occurs on April 22, was started in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) as a movement to force environmental issues into the public eye.
“It was on that day that Americans made it clear that they understood and were deeply concerned over the deterioration of our environment and the mindless dissipation of our resources,” Nelson stated in an article where he chronicled the history of Earth Day. “That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America. It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the nation. That was the important objective and achievement of Earth Day. It showed the political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the environmental decade with a bang.”
Since that first Earth Day, a substantial amount of U.S. federal legislation has been enacted, including the Clean Air Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, just to name a few.
John C. Whitaker, who had roles as Cabinet Secretary; associate director of the White House Domestic Council for environment, energy, and natural resources policy; and Undersecretary of the Department of the Interior under President Richard Nixon, also shared his thoughts on the day.
“When President Nixon and his staff walked into the White House on January 20, 1969, we were totally unprepared for the tidal wave of public opinion in favor of cleaning the nation’s environment that was about to engulf us,” he said. “If the candidates showed little interest in the issue, so did the national press corps. In fact, Nixon staff members do not recall even one question put to him about the environment.”
“Yet only 17 months after the election, on April 22, 1970, the country celebrated Earth Day, with a national outpouring of concern for cleaning up the environment,” Whitaker continued. “Politicians of both parties jumped on the issue. So many politicians were on the stump on Earth Day that Congress was forced to close down. The oratory, one of the wire services observed, was ‘as thick as smog at rush hour.’”
As such a grand movement, the day continues to be important for anyone concerned about sustainability and protection the environment. In the following episode of Straight Talk!, ISSA Media Director Jeff Cross talks to Steve Ashkin, founder of The Ashkin Group LLC, which advocates for sustainability and green cleaning in the professional cleaning industry. Ashkin discusses his take on Earth Day as a time to celebrate how far the environmental movement has come over the past six decades.