Today, April 22, 2018, is Earth Day, a day to engage in activities, whether they are in our neighborhoods, in our personal lives and choices, or even virtually as a global community, that promote the well-being of our planet – and by extension, all who inhabit it. As a commissioner for the Forest Preserve District of Will County, and as a citizen of a world that I want to be a careful steward of, to be able to hand it down to my children and grandchildren with pride, I take caring for our environment very seriously.
That doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun talking about how to do that, though. And so, with apologies to David Letterman, I present my list of the Top Ten Things to Know About Earth Day and Caring for Our Environment:
- The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970, the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, designed as a “teach-in on the environment” that grew to a coordinated network of protests and activism efforts that culminated in the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
- A new county-wide effort is underway for a specific kind of recycling: Recycle Your Bicycle. Any time something gets a new life, it means there’s one less new thing that has to be produced.
- Today’s area students are engaged in caring for our world, including events at College of DuPage and Joliet Junior College – let’s make sure we’re participating, too!
- Earth Day 1990 was the next big coordinated effort, this time going global. A large focus of the event was increasing recycling awareness and efforts around the world, and it paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
- In 2000, Earth Day organizers harnessed the power of the Internet to share information and organize even larger and more numerous rallies across the country and across the globe.
- Fighting a wave of cynicism, Earth Day 2010 re-energized and refocused Earth Day as a point of connection and action, resulting in a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into The Canopy Project – and we all know how important reforestation is in this area, as we continue to recover from insect invasions that have threatened our own oxygen-producing tree friends.
- The focus of this year’s earth Day is to End Plastic Pollution, with a toolkit that expands the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to include a call to Refuse to create so much waste in the first place and to Remove that plastic from our environment whenever we see it.
- It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature: Be careful to fully research any opportunities to engage with nature. Recently, the Forest Preserve District discovered it was being spoofed on a Facebook page. It is not certain whether any Russians were involved.
- Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary will occur in 2020. Work is already underway to address multiple world-wide environmental concerns; see more information and how you can get involved here.
And the number 1 Thing to Know about Earth Day and Caring for Our Environment is:
As is true with most things, every little bit helps. Doing anything – from the above possibilities or something you find out about elsewhere or come up with on your own – will make our world that much better a place to live in now and that much improved a place to hand off to the next generation. Often, the effects of that one little thing snowball, either as a prompt for you to do a little bit more tomorrow or as an example for someone else to build on.
So let’s celebrate Earth Day this year, and look forward to the 50th Anniversary in two years, and hope for a 100th Celebration in 2070!