Earth Day 2021

Kai Heister, Writer

Every year, on April 22, we celebrate Earth Day across the globe. However, this celebration wasn’t always the case. Earth Day was founded in 1970, but before it was created there were no rules or regulations regarding the planet and the amount of pollution you could create. There were also massive changes in consumerism and mass production in the decades leading up to Earth Day, and because of it, humans from around the world were consuming more and more, and they were producing more waste than they ever had before. Things like leaded gas, inefficient automobiles, factory waste, oil spills, pesticides, and new air pollution were all huge offenders. However, most Americans were oblivious to the amount of pollution they were causing and creating, and how it could affect their health.

The situation was dire, but fortunately, a change occurred rapidly after the publication of Rachel Carson’s best-selling book, Silent Spring, in 1962. The book brought attention to the health and safety issues that go hand in hand with the general use of pesticides and other forms of pollution. The book caused an eye-opening moment for both the United States and the 23 other countries where it was released, where it sold over five hundred thousand copies. This astonishing book gave way to many revelations about the environment.

Following the publication of Silent Spring, in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin took action. He had long been interested in the United States’ environmental state and decided to make a move after a large oil spill in Santa Barbara in January of 1969. The spill raised awareness of water pollution. He used the wave of anti-pollution and inspiration from student anti-war efforts to organize a Teach-in on April 22 in 1969. Realizing the potential after the event, he decided to take his efforts nationwide. He named the day “Earth Day” and held the first one in 1970. It created political alignment between all parties. After the first Earth Day, multiple laws had been passed regarding the environment in the United States in the same year, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In the following years, more laws were passed, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. In 1990, the event went global. It involved over two hundred million people across almost one hundred and fifty different countries. 

To this day, our global community still celebrates Earth Day, as well as our school community. When asked if we do enough for Earth Day at Friends, students had a strong response. Isabelle Miller ‘23 said, “No, I think that there’s a lot of little things that we do to make people feel better, but we don’t actually do anything. We talk about using less paper, but not reducing our emissions. Yes, what we do is important, but a lot of it is to make people feel better. I also think that Earth Day, as a day, we should go out into the community and help out.”

Beck Hartwick ‘23 agreed with the statement, adding, “No. I think the climate change agreement and march were cool, but we haven’t really done anything this year.” Caroline Vanderloo ‘22 echoed their statement saying, “No, I think one way we can improve is not giving out disposable water bottles at lunch.” Finally, Tom Easter, an Upper School Spanish teacher, said, I think we do a lot, but at this point in time, there’s no such thing as too much.” The sentiment that Friends School does a lot, but could do more, is something that has reverberated around the school. It is clear that moving forward, Friends Students are looking for bigger and bolder projects to celebrate Earth Day.