The earth is what we all have in common,” once stated the famed writer and farmer, Wendell Berry. And he is completely right. Historically speaking, humans and animals have found reasons to become intolerant and draw lines, but one thing we cannot deny is our commonality of Mother Earth. This message is imperative during these trying times of increasing Climate Change and after years of manmade pollution has plagued our planet. Today marks a particular day of importance for our planet, Earth Day and in particular Earth Day is celebrating its 40th year!

The very first Earth Day was planned by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970 as a national teach-in for students and the country to call attention to the environmental movement and as a protest against current policies.  The idea sure stuck, as students around the country, some 20 million, gathered together to draw attention to the environment, mainly focusing on the pollution of air and water. Since that fateful day in the year of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Jimi Hendrix’s death, and the Kent State Shootings, Earth Day has continued to grow. In fact, many people point to this day as the onset of the modern environmentalist movement. The original Earth Day and the proceeding public outcry led the federal government to create the Environmental Protection Agency  that same year and influenced the passage of groundbreaking acts such as the Clean Air, Clean Water, an Endangered Species Act. It would be an understatement to call the first Earth Day a success. In fact, it is often highlighted that the original Earth Day gained the support of almost all Americans, something an issue can rarely do, from young to old, Democrats to Republicans, the rich and the well, not so rich…you get the point. It was one of those rare opportunities for the country to pull together.

Over the years Earth Day has grown into almost a national holiday with celebrations and promotions taking place all over the country.  It may have lost its ability to bring commonality to polar opposites, as it is often looked at as a “Hippie Day.” However, Earth Day still meets its original goal of educating the people and drawing awareness to environmental issues. But it doesn’t have to lose the weight it once held with politicos. In this world of human pollution denial, environmental policy drawn on party lines, and growing evidence of climate change, Earth Day and its message are even more urgent.

Today should be utilized, as it always has, to continue to bring attention to the environmental issues our world faces, but also to remind ourselves the importance of our environment everyday. Let Earth Day serve as a reminder to live an eco-friendly life and to continue to support positive environmental policy. You can begin by celebrating Earth Day in a number of ways. Please see last year’s post on How to Celebrate Earth Day for ideas and check the Earth Resource Network for a local event near you. As for us, we will be celebrating in New York City’s Earthfair outside Grand Central Station! If you are nearby, come say hello.

Today, this week, this month, this year, and the rest of our lives should continue with the world on our minds. We owe it to ourselves, our future generations, the animals, and of course our Mother Earth. Today marks the 40th Anniversary of Earth day and it is time we allow it to get back to its roots; to bring our nation and world together in a common goal: protecting the world around us. Just as Berry stated, the Earth really is the one thing we really have in common, so let us use Earth Day to bridge the gaps between us. As the old adage says “we are all in this together,” so let’s work at it together.

-Gina Williams