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Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Corner: Earth Day should be every day

One of the first pictures taken of the Earth from the Moon was snapped by astronaut William Anders on Christmas Eve 1968. Anders, as well as astronauts James Lovell and Frank Borman, were aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft, the first manned mission to orbit the moon. The photo was taken in the pre-digital age and not seen until the film was returned to Earth. “Earthrise” shows a beautiful blue planet in sharp contrast to the barren lunar landscape. This iconic image had a profound impact on humanity and helped prompt the environmental movement of the 1970s. “Apollo 8 will probably be remembered as much for Bill’s picture as anything because it shows the fragility of our Earth, the beauty of the Earth, and just how so insignificantly small we are in the Universe,” said Borman in Travel-Leisure magazine. “It was the beginning of the realization that we need to take care of it.”

The first national Earth Day, celebrated April 22, 1970, played a significant role in generating support for environmental legislation. Prior to 1970, there were few legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment. It was legal for factories to spew toxic smoke into the air or toxic waste into a nearby stream. Across the country bacteria levels in rivers were high, pesticides were being used indiscriminately, millions of gallons of spilled oil was fouling beaches, city air was deteriorating and oil slicks on a river were catching fire. In July 1970, President Richard Nixon sent a plan to Congress to consolidate environmental responsibilities under one federal agency, a new Environmental Protection Agency. In December of that year, the EPA was officially established by Congress. Congress also passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, amended a federal water protection law that became the Clean Water Act in 1972 and passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson first announced the concept of an Earth Day in the fall of 1969. A former governor of the Badger State, Nelson had a long history of promoting conservation efforts. Nelson and his Senate staff recognized the energy of grass roots student-led activism and wanted that same energy to help promote environmental priorities in national politics. The date for Earth Day was selected, not only because it was national Arbor Day, a long standing conservation effort, but also because on college campuses it fell between spring break and final exams. According to EPA’s website more than 20 million people in the U.S. participated in the first Earth Day. Protecting our planet has always been a theme of Earth Day but environmental problems have become so widespread that scientists say addressing climate change is more urgent than ever. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change reports make it clear human-induced climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.

According to a U.N. press release, on April 4, 2022, Antonio Gutterres, U.N. Secretary General, stated, “We are on a fast track to climate disaster … This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies … This is a climate emergency.”

During the month of May, MOVCA is promoting the important message that every day, not just April 22, should be Earth Day. Digital billboards, which feature the iconic Earthrise photo, are located at 1044 Emerson Ave. in Parkersburg and 324 Pike St. in Marietta. Billboards are a highly visible tool for messaging but it would be ideal if the billboards were powered by renewable energy resources. In June 2006, the world’s first solar powered billboard was installed in Johannesburg, South Africa. This billboard also supplies power to a local school. Pacific Gas and Electric unveiled the first solar powered billboard in the U.S. in December 2007. Installed in foggy San Francisco, it creates more energy than needed to light up the billboard at night and delivers up to 3.4 kilowatts of solar energy to PG&E customers. Coca Cola made the switch to wind power to generate the energy needed for its giant iconic billboard in Times Square in 2008. And in June 2010 the first 100% solar powered billboard in Times Square was installed. Please notice the MOVCA billboards as you travel through the area. More importantly, please help slow climate change. Take MOVCA’s message to heart and respect our planet every day of every year in every way you can.

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Giulia Mannarino, of Belleville, is a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.

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