Celebrating Earth Day’s anniversary

The year 1970 was eventful. Consider some notable happenings:

— President Nixon ordered U.S. forces to cross into neutral Cambodia, which widened the Vietnam War. His decision ignited nationwide riots including the Kent State shootings resulting in four dead students and others injured.

— A jury found the Chicago Seven defendants not guilty of conspiring to incite a riot from charges stemming from the violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The social climate was smoldering.

— President Nixon signed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, banning cigarette television advertisements in the United States starting January 1, 1971. And smoke many still do

— Ronald Reagan was reelected governor of California. Jimmy Carter was elected governor of Georgia. You know the rest.

— Also: postal workers went on a nationwide two-week strike; Paul McCartney left the Beatles; Ford introduced the Pinto (yuck!) and American Motors Corporation the Gremlin (double yuck!); Three Rivers Stadium opened in Pittsburgh; the Browns beat Joe Namath and the New York Jets during the debut of Monday Night Football game before 85,000 in Cleveland; and, oh yeah, the first episode of “All My Children” aired on ABC.

There was another lasting date of significance. Earth Day got its start on April 22. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin — in a stroke of brilliance — proposed the idea after seeing damage done by a 1969 widespread oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif.

He inspired what was called a national “teach-in” which educated the public about the environment. A staff numbering a mere 85 concerned citizens was able to rally 20 million Americans across the United States on April 20, 1970 to deliver the message about environmental issues. Those involved were friends of the planet. Their messages resonate a half-century and a year later. Earth Day turns 51 today. What began as a grassroots movement rapidly sprawled and covered our nation like a lush landscape. Earth Day is an annual event created to celebrate the planet’s environment and raise public awareness about pollution.

Schools and communities alike have always observed Earth Day. Yes, this year — like last year –is dramatically different because of the virus. But virus and all it brought be damned, folks can still walk a nature trail today. Or visit a park. They can feel sunshine on their cheeks and breezes in the air. They can watch clouds mosey overhead and watch deer glide across morning meadows. Go ahead and enjoy it. Even if all you can do is sit on your front porch or in your backyard and enjoy taking some deep breaths in and out. The cold and snowy weather we have had these past couple of days is a blip. It will be in the 70s next week.

Our planet, certainly our country has come a long way over the past 51 years. All you have to do is walk or drive around to see that. Think back several decades and in our area alone you can see that air pollution has been virtually eliminated. Drive along the Ohio River which used to puke up pollution as did mills on its shores. Much good has been done. But you can always walk or drive around and see that there are those who just don’t get it. The slobs litter in every imaginable way. They are without consciences.

There are also businesses and industries that need to be vigilant about environmental standards. How many of us ever heard of “climate change” until recent years? Take a walk along a nature trail. You would think that is the last place you would find litter considering those using it. But it happens a lot. Each of us can do a part to help out, however little you think it might be. Because it really isn’t “little” at all. Dispose of waste properly. Pick up other’s litter. If you are a smoker, don’t flick your butts out the window while driving. That’s pathetic. Do you toss butts in your own yards? Keeping our planet clean should be a no-brainer. As an example, just think of how much fresher and cleaner our area would look if each able-bodied citizen took out a single garbage bag and walked the streets until it was filled. Make it a family project. Just remember to wear gloves. Thanks to community-minded volunteers like those in Salem who will be out Saturday morning throughout downtown during the city’s annual clean-up day.

Another important aspect of embracing Earth Day is education. Those of a certain age should remember a message-for-the-times song released in May 1970 by legendary folk rockers Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It was called “Teach Your Children.”

That message could be invoked when it comes to a duty all of us should heed: passage of the importance of caring for the environment down to our children and grandchildren. After all, they are going to inherit this world. They deserve a clean planet and it should be incumbent on all of us to show them how.

Earth Day should be every single day. Help bring a smile to Mother Nature’s face and do your part. Enough “littles” can mean a lot.


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