It’s Earth Day 2014: What Will Earth Day 2064 Look Like?

Candice Gaukel Andrews April 22, 2014 22

Are grassroots-level environmental movements likely to happen anymore? What will Earth Day 2064 look like? ©Eric Rock

It’s been 44 years since Wisconsin’s—as this Wisconsinite is proud to say—Senator Gaylord Nelson inspired the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Modeled on the antiwar protests of the late 1960s, the original Earth Day began on university campuses as a national “teach-in” on environmental issues. Particularly, Nelson hoped to shine the national spotlight on air and water pollution. There has been an annual Earth Day ever since Senator Nelson’s 1970 creation.

But what’s happened to our nation during the past 44 years? Have our air and water pollution levels improved? Will there even be an Earth Day 2064, 50 years from now? If so, what will it—and our planet—look like?

Environmental awakening, 1970

Coal dust from a new mine near Bryce Canyon National Park could wipe out its starry nights. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews

In 1962, Rachel Carson published her bestseller, Silent Spring. That seminal book raised the public’s awareness of the dangerous effects pesticides were having on America’s landscapes. Later in the decade, in 1969, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire, and the event shed light on the problem of chemical waste disposal. Up until the 1960s, protecting the planet’s natural resources was not part of our national political agenda. At that time, the number of activists devoted to pollution issues was minimal. After World War II, big, gas-guzzling cars were considered a sign of prosperity. Factories poured pollutants into the air, lakes and rivers with very few legal consequences. The concept of recycling was familiar only to a small portion of the American population.

But on April 22, 1970, that all changed. Rallies were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and most other American cities. In New York, Mayor John Lindsay closed off a portion of Fifth Avenue to traffic for several hours and spoke at a gathering in Union Square. In Washington, D.C., Congress went into recess so its members could speak to their constituents at Earth Day events. That special day served as a prelude to a number of important pieces of environmental legislation that were passed in the 1970s: the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Water Quality Improvement Act. In December 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established, tasked with protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment—air, land and water.

Forty-four years ago, it seems, Washington, D.C. was full of environmental advocates, despite party lines. In less than 50 years, however, we now find Congress dominated by climate change deniers, refusing to act while our natural surroundings continue to decay.

Rapid climate change is causing tundras to turn into forests. ©Eric Rock

Nodding off, when it comes to nature, 2014

Today, our environmental laws are being eroded and our planet is slipping into a dire scenario from which we may not be able to recover. Coal dust from new mines could wipe out starry nights in our national parks. Our tundras are turning to forests, displacing many species of wildlife that have lived in that environment for millennia, causing them to deal for the first time in their long histories with agricultural fields, four-lane highways and parking lots. Drilling and fracking are now exempt from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and hazardous waste laws. Today, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest landfill in the world. Composed of plastic shards, this gigantic debris field floats in the Pacific Ocean, about a thousand miles off the coast of California. It covers an area of hundreds—maybe even thousands—of miles and could be as large as Texas, according to some estimates. Despite all of this, Americans’ concerns about the environment and air and water pollution have recently sunk to new lows.

According to HISTORY.com, Senator Gaylord Nelson stated that “Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”

Given Americans’ declining concerns about natural resource issues and the slackening of our environmental laws, are grassroots-level environmental movements likely to happen anymore? Would we even take to the streets today, or would we protest via our personal electronic devices? What do you think Earth Day 2064 will look like?

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy

22 Comments »

  1. Hlonela Gesha March 2, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    At the rate at which things are being done right now, will there even be a 2064?

  2. Roman Johnston May 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    I think we are near a tipping point where will tumble into dispair, or we will wise up and it will be a glorious day.

  3. JH April 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    I think Earth Day 2064 will be about seeing what irreversible damage we’ve done to the environment and, talking about probably more endangered or extinct species. Just seeing everybody not conserving water or paper towels or even recycling (when there are signs everywhere saying we need to “go green”) gives me little hope in the future…

  4. Holly Waggoner April 30, 2014 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    We will not be here.

  5. deTraci Regula April 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I am hoping that there will be a comment coming from a travel writer on a resort on Mars on the topic of “Earth Day” in 2064~!

  6. Govind Bharad April 28, 2014 at 6:19 am - Reply

    I think we need to think positively. The Earth Day in 2064 may likely to be celebrated by practicing the measures to protect earth instead of theoratical discussios in some workshop or symposium, as being done done in this era. Till then the enhancement in implementation of technology may not left to few individuals, but to some type of APP, which would be in a position to implement, monitor and evaluate the conservation programs precisely.

  7. Dr. Srinivas Mudrakartha April 28, 2014 at 6:18 am - Reply

    Any sensitive person would dread to imagine the state of earth 50 years hence. However, such a population is miniscule and therefore it appears that the situation is highly depressing.

    What I have noticed is that the efforts that are being put in are due to concerns and actions by international bodies such as the United Nations. Here too, what happens is more to display a big brotherly attitude rather than altruistic reasons. In any case, something does get happened, and we have a situation which is more than business-as-usual.

    The real change I am totally convinced will come not by education or governance of which there is no dearth, or anything like that, but by change from within each individual human being. This you may call ‘Awareness’-a highly abused and misused term. Such a change is very difficult to come by, although whether it will, in this life time of the person. So, to make things workable, a process that facilitates such a change through a variety of actions accompanied by strong punitive actions (you may call this good governance) can halt the act of causing pollution in the first place, and then reversing it. Nature will sure help us in our efforts in its own way.

  8. Bebot T. Santa Cruz April 28, 2014 at 6:16 am - Reply

    In many years of serving the nature -marine and terrestrial environment, these two human rights- freedom and conservation must be one to advocate or rather to oversee the remaining living organism-that includes MAN.

  9. Philip Wells April 28, 2014 at 6:15 am - Reply

    When I first saw this post I was stumped with how to respond although it affected me, perhaps others felt the same? It is hard to imagine anything beyond a 20 year time frame in this day and age with the rate of change in technology, population growth, and changes in the political map of the world. This makes the question of what the world will be like in 50 years from now a scary one with so many unknowns to be faced. In turn, this makes planning for the future a problem. Discount rates in economics often make long term models a nonsense with future costs and benefits appearing insignificant now, and climate models struggle to make much sense other than tell us things wont be the same despite our best efforts.

    However, there are certain things we can do now to prepare for an uncertain future that also happen to have shorter term benefits whilst at the same time people in the future will thank us for. First on my list is education. Education will enable the people of the future to better adapt, and may also give us technological development that can solve the global environmental stress caused by a growing population and hunger for natural resources. The second on my list is governance that complements and builds on improved individual ability and action to a collective mechanism to make the right decisions for regions, nations, and potentially globally when agreement can be reached.

    The world in parts has made great strides in terms of education and governance, but there are also counter narratives in other parts and, globally, nations struggle to reach agreement on anything. I can’t answer here if the overall progress is sufficient or even sustainable at a rate that would provide the outcomes necessary but I feel it to be true that this is where greatest effort should be applied. Please do not read this as a signal from myself that we are wasting our time with other options and they therefore should not be funded. I would however be interested to hear other peoples views. What’s your vote for the top two items?

  10. Dr.Susan Sharma April 26, 2014 at 12:22 am - Reply

    A grass root movement is the need of the hour in every country including India. Let us start by protecting the tree which is growing next to our house.

  11. Roy DuVerger, MWC April 25, 2014 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    Earth Day 2064, the human race unable to halt population growth has outstripped the ability of the earth to provide enough food for survival, pandemics swept across the planet, the air became so polluted you needed an oxygen mask to breath, and the water so polluted there was not enough left to support the remaining population, and the wildlife that survived is dancing in what is left of the streets celebrating the fact that humans are gone.

  12. S. J. Brown April 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    I think there have been improvements on a small scale. The natural world is still fighting back, but it needs a lot of help. Personally I think education is very important. If we teach our children a love of the natural world they are more likely to care for it as they grow.

  13. Carl Knauer April 24, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

    I was a freshman in high school in the early seventies, and witnessed the monumental change in the rampant pollution of the waterways in the years following that time period. I am extremely concerned today about water pollution. There is a major city in my state which discharges raw sewage into a large river that terminates into the Atlantic ocean “only during heavy rain events’. That, in and of itself, is unacceptable. When you combine that policy with the fact that a Person is responsible for making the call what constitutes a ‘heavy rain event’, is unacceptable, as the call is often, if not always made prior to the rain event. I have unknowingly, navigated my boat near the discharge gate, only to find a sign with extremely small print, warning of the policy of raw sewage discharge during heavy rain events. There were ‘floaters’ in the water (I am not apologetic of my coarse language here) and I thought that I would never get the stench off of my boat. More work needs to be done? You bet! I really wish that the Global/Climate folks would direct their energy towards a more worthwhile cause such as this one. If they did, I would sign up tomorrow.

  14. Ozlem Ozdemir April 24, 2014 at 5:23 am - Reply

    We are all responsible for the environment in all of our various roles. Just think about your individual impact within each role and then add them up to see the humankind’s impact on nature. Everyday is Earth Day.

  15. Lucie Nováková April 24, 2014 at 5:22 am - Reply

    Your article is right. And I think it isnt problem only in America, unfortunately, it is a worldwide problem. Our unsustainable lifestyle… In 2064? One example – if nothing change there will be no bees, there will be no life

  16. Govind Bharad April 24, 2014 at 5:20 am - Reply

    Since last 44 years we are celebrating the EARTH DAY. Have we really involved ourselves in the SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION MISSION whole completely?. The answer perhaps seem to be be negative, for many of us. All over the globe, the FARMING community is fully involved in soil conservation and there by protecting the EARTH to the great extent. While celebrating the day, the farmers need to be honored for their effective role, in addition to other programs.

  17. Mahesh Bhat April 24, 2014 at 5:19 am - Reply

    WE DO NOT INHERIT THE EARTH FROM OUR ANCESTORS,
    WE BORROW IT FROM OUR CHILDREN.

    Let us strive together to make our Earth more beautiful….
    Here’s wishing you a HAPPY EARTH DAY !

  18. Evangelos Katsiambirtas April 24, 2014 at 5:19 am - Reply

    If it is about clean air ( not about CO2) and water I am with you. If it is about “global” warming and “climate” extremes I must say that does not exist such a thing (global) and also does not exist a physical phenomenon such as “climate” but only weather (wind, radiation temperature rain etc.) i.e. physical variables that can be measured.

  19. Jerry Rivers April 23, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Global warming apocalypse is approaching right row and mankind will this monstrous Clmate change, the earth will keep changing till 50 years from nw.

  20. Shannon C. Irwin April 23, 2014 at 10:51 am - Reply

    I must admit, there was a time in my life where I was hesitant to believe Global Climate Change existed.
    What I did realize, however, is the fact that Global Pollution is a threat that no one can deny. All you have to do is read headlines of Exxon gulf, Alaska Valdeez not to mention tractor trailer and derailments carrying toxic substances.
    I believe if we started discussing “Global Pollution” instead of “Global Climate Change” more people would be on board. All you need to do is look out the window and view all the pollution surrounding us.
    At any rate, I appreciate everything you do.
    FYI – I am vegan, vanpool into work, drive a new low emmisions vehicle and recycle just about everything.
    There are a lot of us (but just not enough) doing our part. It would be nice to penalize those who do not. My reward is that my difference may be minute, but it is something.
    Thanks for reading,
    Shannon C. Irwin
    Earth Lover!

  21. Jacob Terrance April 23, 2014 at 8:07 am - Reply

    I must say that this is a very well written article. Unfortunately, I must agree with the perspective that environmental concerns have fallen to the wayside. This is especially disturbing since we (the whole fraternity and sorority of mankind) are reaching a critical point in being able to ameliorate the damage done. Coming from and working for a native american tribe, I hope to one day see people return to a stance of respect for nature and become stewards of nature. It is the ultimate goal of my current career to return the lost resource of subsistence fishing to my community.

  22. John Howard Gaukel April 23, 2014 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Given Americans’ declining concerns about natural resource issues and the politicians’ denials and failure to act to protect the environment, I wouldn’t want to be here in the year 2064. I think environmentalists who are trying to sound the alarm now could leave a message in a time capsule, to be opened on Earth Day 2064. I believe the appropriate message could be,”WE Told You So.”

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