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Earth Day 2020 — The 50th Anniversary

In the 1960s American industry belched out smoke into the air and sludge into rivers and lakes with little fear from either the law or public pressure. Air pollution was accepted as the smell of prosperity. The Great Lakes were in danger of becoming the “Dead Seas of the United States.”  In January 1969 a huge oil spill near Santa Barbara wreaked havoc on 300 miles of the California shoreline, killing thousands of birds, fish and sea mammals. In June 1969 the Cuyahoga River near downtown Cleveland caught on fire, severely damaging two railroad bridges.

But by the end of the 1960s, large numbers of Americans were no longer oblivious to environmental degradation and how a polluted environment threatens human health. The idea of a decentralized “national teach-in on the environment” was originally conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in the fall of 1969. The first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970. About 10% of the total American population, or 20 million people—from 10,000 elementary and high schools, 2,000 colleges, and over 1,000 communities — took action on that day. The people in the first Earth Day crowds were young and old, labor union members, farmers, truck drivers, scientists and politicians from all ideologies—from Barry Goldwater to Edward Kennedy.

Earth Day 2020 marks fifty years of Earth Day. This year the Earth Day Network will coordinate activities in 193 countries. The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. Every individual can do something to help the environment as Pastor Jenny has suggested with “Lent with Less.” There are other activities that people can do together, of course. A few of the many activities occurring in the Denver area for Earth Day 2020 are posted on the Whole Earth Ministry bulletin board.