Fifty two years ago today Earth Day dawned.
Taking his cue from young peace activist John McConnell— who wanted to establish a day to honor the earth and advocate for global peace—Wisconsin senator and environmentalist Gaylord Nelson proposed a national teach in on April 22, whereby college students across the country could talk about and find solutions to environmental hazards facing the nation.
Half a century later it’s time for a pop quiz to see just how much learning we’ve done. More importantly to see if we have done anything useful with that knowledge.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the average temperature across the 48 contiguous states has risen between .13 and .54 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.
What happens when temperatures get warmer, incrementally or otherwise?
In late winter and early spring slightly warmer weather may not seem like a big deal. Shorts and flip flops may be worn with more frequency. Outdoor picnics and strolls may be regular weekend activities.
But with warmer weather and an intermittent rainfall water supplies suffer. Drought settles in reservoirs take a hit the cost of water rises. Lawns suffer, showers get shorter,hillsides dry up. Brush becomes tinder. Wildfires intensify.
The causes of higher temps are varied but they include emissions from planes, trains and automobiles. The more gas and oil we rely on the hotter we run.
And the sicker we get.
It wasn’t that long ago when parts of National City, those that were near or engulfed in industrial hubs, reported having the highest number of children with asthma hospitalized in the county.
(And given what we are currently experiencing with the ongoing pandemic, it warrants reminding that an environmental crisis like an ongoing health crises will disproportionately harm communities where low to middle income families live, the bulk of which seem to be non-white.)
Today is Earth Day. Fifty two years ago we wanted to learn about the negative affects of a polluted climate and find ways to mitigate them. Instead it’s getting hotter we’re all sweating. The poor and working class more than anyone else.