Editorial: Honor the earth

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

NASA / Associated Press

Earth Day is a globally celebrated annual event that asks people to think about and environmentally respect the world we live in. The 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, comes at a chilling time when the relationships among living things and the earth are cast in a new light by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Still, there are many ways individuals and families can celebrate Earth Day, even as the town, nation and the world are fighting the pandemic. While people shouldn’t gather for traditional spring cleanups and trail sprucing, folks can do that individually on roadside walks and trail hikes.

The first Earth Day took place in 1970 and was organized by Gaylord Nelson, a former Wisconsin senator, in an effort to raise awareness about water and air pollution. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans participated in voicing their concerns and raising awareness about environmental problems such as oil spills, toxic dumps and endangered animals.

The first international Earth Day took place in 1990, with 200 million people from 141 countries discussing the importance of preserving the environment and thinking of ways to actively protect the environment.

Since the establishment of Earth Day, people have fought to make sustainable and environmentally beneficial changes. In the United States, government officials enacted the Clean Air and Water acts as well as the Endangered Species Act. Individual people help out by using cleaner alternatives to oil, and by recycling.

One of the very few positives in this terrible time of fighting the pandemic, having certainty turned uncertain, and having to social distance, might be the benefit of the planet. People are driving less, shopping less, taking the train less, and many are producing less garbage. Folks are spending more time outdoors — walking or biking — and appreciating nature.

Newfound simplicity and living with less should be lessons carried along into the eventual return to normalcy. Take a walk instead of a drive. Grow vegetables. Wear old clothes. Make fewer unnecessary trips to the grocery store, or to shop for clothing. All of this can help celebrate the earth.

And this Earth Day, remember that humans are not earth’s only inhabitants. This is the time of year when many newborn animals can be spotted — and sometimes mistaken for abandoned. Use caution and give these animal families their space.

Remember, everyone can and should do something to protect the environment every day of the year, not just on Earth Day — this year, more than ever.