Earth Day 2021 is on April 22nd and it will mark the 51st year of the world honoring our beautiful, life sustaining, whole reason we’re all alive Mother Earth.
It also marks the 51st year of raising awareness that she is, well, let’s just say existence challenged. Yep, Mom’s still in trouble. How can that be? We’ve been fighting for her life—and by extension ours—for over five decades. So how come we haven’t won?
Perhaps going all the back to the very first Earth Day will provide an answer. At the very least, it should give us a clue about how we got here.
So, brothers and sisters, grab an adaptogenic oat milk latte and an organic plant protein power bar—o.k., just pour yourself a heaping glass of wine with a family-sized bag of Doritos chaser, and brace yourself. The story of Earth Day doesn’t have a happy ending.
Early 1970– The Day The Name Gaylord Started Trending Again.
Senator Gaylord Nelson, an avid conservationist, made the first big push to create wider awareness of global environmental threats such as pollution and toxic waste, which were the primary environmental concerns of his time.
He initially envisioned this effort as an “environmental teach-in” in the same spirit as the successful teach-ins that took place on campuses across the country during the Vietnam War.
What matters is that he cared. And he did something. Which began changing hearts and minds not only about the environment, but about the name Gaylord. Which is also why there’s hope for the name Greta and Sting. Well, Greta for sure.
Later Than Year– “E day” By Any Other Name.
A Madison Avenue mad man named Julien Konig (of the “Think Small” Volkswagen campaign) came up with the name after telling Nelson (whole story there, no time now) he thought that the “teach-in” approach was way passe’. So, he and his crack advertising team suggested the creation of a single day to honor Mother Earth.
They tossed around “Ecology Day”, “Environment Day”, and even “E Day”, but ultimately recommended “Earth Day”. After going for broke and running a full page ad in the New York Times, the name became an overnight success and a global movement was born.
The 1980s– We’re Having A Heatwave. Duh.
By the late 1980s, droughts and record heat were becoming regular front page news. Leading scientists started linking the trend to the phenomenon of “global warming”, especially in California, where the California Energy Commission predicted that extreme weather issues would not only continue, but increase in regularity and intensity over time.
So, what did the oil companies do? They cut funding for their climate research (kept secret at the time) as it inconveniently revealed that their very lucrative product was a prime contributor to the catastrophic damage being done to the earth.
Those funds were then redirected toward supporting groups like the Global Climate Coalition, whose main purpose was to sow doubt about whether climate change was even a thing. Further millions funded politicians who opened up a new front in the war on global existence by blocking climate action legislation. Duh.
1988– The UN Goes Full Geek.
In 1988, the whole world was finally listening. The UN founded the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change) which tasked leading scientists with gathering the best information from around the world about developing climate change science and providing it to governmental officials in a form that wouldn’t make their heads hurt.
This was a key step in getting key countries on the same page as to what was happening regarding global warming, and hopefully achieving a consensus on a plan of action.
So that’s it…problem solved. Sadly, geeks don’t run the world. At least, at that point.
The story is bleak, so far. But the next chapter in the Earth Day story is...well...check back tomorrow. And save some chips. You’re gonna need them.