Earth Day: A Day of Complacency

Tanner Cook, Contributing Writer

On this day 47 years ago, demonstrations across the nation were held to rally for a healthy environment. These rallies marked the beginning of change for the United States and were come to be called Earth Day. The outcry for environmental well-being was from the voices of both Republicans and Democrats in a show of compromise that was rarely seen. This compromise of national leaders led to a decade full of environmental reform and policy that protects us to this day.

Some of the most impactful regulations implemented during this decade were the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Endangered Animal Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Clean Air and Water Acts set federal limits on harmful substances in the air and water. The Clean Air Act resulted in the reduction and ultimately the elimination of leaded gasoline which was shown to cause birth defects. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates the disposal of waste, both hazardous and non-hazardous, that result from production and manufacturing. The RCRA mandated wastes to be tracked from production, through transportation, and finally disposal to ensure safekeeping of citizens and the world in which they live. Before these regulations, U.S cities were choked out by smog and horrified by rivers catching fire. Tragedies like these are what spurred reform.

Today, we face our own issues when it comes to environmental degradation. We are losing farmland to desert through salinization, animals are going extinct every day, forests are being cut down by the hectare, and the Earth is gradually getting warmer. The Earth is in a state of peril and we are watching by the wayside. Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder and major proponent of Earth Day would be disappointed in the way his legacy prevailed throughout our generation. Still, to this day, we only have one day that celebrates what nature provides us. Instead, we should have incorporated this idea into our daily lives. Gaylord set the stage not for the complacency we have been satisfied with but one of an environmental revolution.

Somewhere along the way we eliminated everything Senator Nelson worked so hard for, we created a derisive atmosphere between industry and the environment. What changed? Why is the environment a Democratic fight? Why does progress have to mean pollution? Should we not work together to resolve the number one issue of our generation much like our past representatives did in the 1970’s?

The fault for this derision lies on both sides, but given our current presidential administration environmentalist must work harder to be able to work with the people of industry. It is ignorant to think that eliminating much of the industry in the U.S. would result in anything other than economic collapse. The truth is, we cannot live the lifestyle we have created for ourselves without industry. Some might say that Americans do not need as much as they have, and those people may be right, but before you succumb to a minimalist lifestyle let me ask you a question. Why does the badger dig multiple holes to his den when he only needs two? These excessive holes lead to erosion, habitat disruption, and land collapse. This means the badger is living outside of his means right? No, the badger is only doing what is in his nature. Now I will ask you another question, why do humans get fat? Is it because they are gluttonous creatures with a desire to rape and pillage the Earth of everything? Of course not, humans become obese because their bodies tell them to stock up while the resources are plentiful for a time when resources are no longer plentiful. This is the same idea with stuff and industry has capitalized on this aspect of human nature and has bolstered an entire society economically. The more stuff we have when it is available the more likely we are to survive when they are not as available. This is only human nature.

Going against human nature is not the key to environmental sustainability, how real environmental sustainability starts is through research and development not by planting a tree once a year for Earth Day or donating your old clothes. We must find ways people can live their lives in a similar fashion but in a way that is environmentally friendly. This starts with green industrialization and better disposal of waste. Also, it cannot be more expensive to buy environmentally friendly objects; we must eliminate this price gap to make sustainability attainable by way of our government. As a society we need to quit looking the other way when companies are intentionally making people buy the cheaper thing so they can justify their polluting activities. These companies also pad the pockets of politicians to keep the status quo. As a people we are better than that, we need to quit eating the nonsense that the media and politicians keep feeding the citizens. This only fuels complacency. We need to have an active knowledge of the workings of our government to form our own opinions. Doing so gives us the power to hold our representatives accountable. I am not saying rebel and resist. All I am saying is to use the government that our founding fathers gave us. One for the People.