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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


The first Earth Day originated in Wisconsin — here’s how far we’ve come since then

The first Earth Day was gripped with urgency on both sides of the aisle, that same urgency is needed now more than ever
Ella Guo

April 22, 49 years ago, Earth Day was born. The first Earth Day in 1970 was brought into this world through the determination and thought of then-Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Clear Lake. Nelson was inspired by the activism of the 1960s and distraught by increasing levels of pollution and the general lack of consciousness when it came to the environment and its degradation.

That first Earth Day was a massive success, with millions of Americans taking to the streets to raise awareness for environmentalism. Congress adjourned, and the majority of Congressman and Senators spoke at Earth Day events. While our current political systems seem endlessly marred by partisan fighting, the first Earth Day struck a chord with those on both sides of the aisle. Overwhelmingly, a sense of urgency gripped both politicians and the general public.

Nearly 50 years later, we face a very different environment — political and natural — but the urgency of Earth Day is as needed as ever.


Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Janesville and former Gov. Tommy Thompson teamed up in a recent op-ed in USA Today, underlining the bipartisan qualities needed for comprehensive and systematic environmental change in the country.

They highlighted that first Earth Day as possible hope and precedent for the future — and that hope is there.

Green New Deal could create jobs, raise wages, improve environment in Wisconsin

We have all seen as the Green New Deal proposals have unrolled with widespread support across the country. New York City passed their own Green New Deal, a revolutionary and hopeful piece of legislation that will change the lives of New York residents.

Maybe — just maybe —the immovable obstacles of partisan bickering won’t be a victim of the unstoppable force paradox. Perhaps, with the proper support and sheer willpower, environmental consciousness will be that unstoppable force that barrels through these obstacles and, in turn, be a point of bipartisan pride.

Similarly, it’s important to understand these changes grow from momentum and achievements over time, and these achievements can also be the hope needed for the future. While the news seems dominated by negative stories, there is hope and there are achievements over the past few years we should all be proud of.

Despite President Donald Trump’s bravado, nations around the world came together in 2015 for the Paris Climate Agreement, a historic decision showing that countries around the world and their leaders, believe in collective and communal action over passively letting things go untreated. While flawed, and despite hiccups along the way, it is a positive message of what could be possible.

Public lands are safe — for now. In late February 2019, Congress passed, and Trump signed into law, a bill that protects the country’s public lands from privatization, a major win for all Americans who can enjoy these beautiful places and rejoice in all that they have to offer.

Madison approves recommendation to move city to 100 percent renewable energy

And starting today, Los Angeles’ straw ban went into effect, meaning plastic and disposable straws will no longer be the omnipresent potential pollutant that they are — a historic step that underlines the hope that micro-actions multiplied by millions may make a difference.

These victories — which are only a few of many over recent years — are all positive steps toward a healthier future and a more sustainable world. The future, despite its uncertainties and terrors, has some bright spots too. Across the nation, universities and cities are making historic pledges and promises to the future, by actively making institutional changes to both become carbon neutral, and to pivot to completely renewable energy.

Undeniably, we all have an increasing pressure and urgency to take more steps and to fight for the future. Society has made remarkable changes in the past, and we can do it again.

“We need to put partisanship aside and focus on finding common sense solutions that will make this world more prosperous for this and future generations,” the former leaders from Wisconsin said.

In the meantime, enjoy the nice weather, think about your own environmental decisions and continue to push and urge congress to pass legislation that has our nation’s best interests at mind.

Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and history.

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