About ten years ago, a friend said to me, ‘You’re such a hippie.’ Granted, I live in a town full of old and new ‘hippies’, but I wasn’t sure what she meant. The era of the 1960s, to me, was mostly about political activism to expose and correct government and corporate corruption. We eschewed money and greed, and wanted to lead lives far from political control.
If you ask people to define the word ‘hippie’, you will get a different perspective from each one. Responses include political activist, drug user and spiritual seeker among others. Those are simplified definitions. It was a complex time!
Natural living as a political act
I never considered myself a political activist, so I asked my friend what she meant. She said, ‘You are so back-to-the-land.’ She did not see the ’60s as being political, but as a time of communes, gardening, self-sufficiency and respect for nature. That was and still is me.
During those tumultuous times, gardening and being in touch with nature were the direct opposite of the greed, corruption, filth and exploitation of the cities. Self-sufficiency meant you did not need the establishment to survive. A natural lifestyle was a political act, and out of that ideal, Earth Day was born.
Earth Day 1970
Earth Day started out as an American event. In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day to create environmental awareness. The first Earth Day celebration was on April 22, 1970, and millions of Americans held earth-centered events around the country in universities, schools and communities.
Earth Day made people aware of the environment, the damage being done to it, and the need to preserve it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed later in the year. Subsequently, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, The Clean Water Act and other environmental legislation was passed to protect, restore and preserve the planet.
Twenty years later, Earth Day became a global event with 142 countries participating to bring environmental awareness to the general public and get governments to enact relevant policy.
21st century goals
Environmental issues are different now than they were 44 years ago. There are GMOs and fracking to contend with. These did not exist back then! Technology and ‘progress’ have brought more environmental destruction.
Earth Day Network is now the organization behind Earth Day. They see the earth’s preservation in a holistic sense, the way I do. It’s not just the soil, air, water and animals that need help. We need to include human rights, a healthy and prosperous life for everyone, green jobs, green buildings, thoughtful urban renewal, and community so people can feel connected to each other.
What you can do
Get involved with A Billion Acts of Green. From composting and buying local food at home to helping save the Asian elephant, you can get involved. There is a list of environmental actions you can take to participate in Earth Day no matter your circumstances.
And get involved in your community! If there are no events scheduled, at least spread awareness of the issues behind Earth Day now. If you can open one person’s eyes, you’ve made a difference.
Earth Day should be every day, not just a day or a week. Make environmental stewardship your mission!