By Lt. Col. Joel Lane
Colorado Springs Regional Command Post
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Earth Day is April 22, 2017. On that day, we will celebrate the earth and our beautiful surroundings in our great outdoor playground, Colorado. Every year, we find new ways to restore the earth’s beauty and preserve its natural resources.
How and why did Earth Day come about? Several events, beginning with the birth of the American Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s, could lead to future environmental doom for our nation and the world if left unchecked. Invention, technological evolution, development of the railroads, explosive expansion of factories and lax environmental protection laws led to the grim realization that the earth is on a downward spiral.
By 1970, we drove big gas guzzling cars, factories belched out caustic smog, and sludge was released into the waterways. We put prosperity above the health of the environment. Inspired by environmentalists, college students and farmers, Sen. Gaylord Nelson persuaded other congressmen and influential figures to promote a day of action to change human behavior and provoke policy changes to protect the environment.
On April 22, 1970, millions of Americans across the country gathered in the streets, parks and auditoriums to protest against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, release of raw sewage, use of pesticides, wasting of natural resources, and extinction of wildlife. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
By the 1990s, Earth Day was a global event celebrated in 141 countries by over 200 million people. Today, Earth Day has expanded to include 184 countries across the globe with hundreds of millions of people. While environmental concerns of the first Earth Day are still relevant today, global warming, overpopulation, mining, oil production, famine and recycling are all important additions to the movement.
There are endless ways for all of us to get involved in Earth Day 2017 no matter where we are. Most communities have Earth Day events, and there are many ways to get involved with little effort. Consider these options for you and your families to get involved.
• Earth Day at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center: a free family-fun event promoting community action in protecting the environment through clean-up efforts. The free events will include presentations and demonstrations by the Air Force Academy Falconer’s, American Indian dancers, Peterson AFB Fire Department smoke house education, arts and crafts, nature walks, wildlife touch tables, and education exhibits, along with much more. For more information, visit http://www.gardenofgods.com/educational/edu-1/earth-day.
• Visit various local zoos and wildlife preserves. Learn about featured animal and environmental conservation efforts and see what you can do to help.
• Visit one of the nearby national parks, including the Florissant Fossil Beds, Rocky Mountain National Park, or Great Sand Dunes National Park to learn about preservation and conservations projects. The National Park Service offers free annual park passes for active duty personnel and dependents with a valid military ID. Admission to national parks on Earth Day is free for everyone. For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/state/co/index.htm.
• Visit one of the nearby state parks, including the Cheyenne Mountain, Mueller, and Castlewood Canyon State Parks to hike, spot wildlife, and learn about conservation. Bring some trash bags and pick up litter while you hike. For more information, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/.
• Start recycling if you don’t already. Recycling tips can be found at https://americarecyclesday.org/recycling-tips-of-the-day/.
• Take a walk around your neighborhood and pick up litter, visit the local library and check out a book on the environment, watch a National Geographic nature documentary, plant a garden, conduct an energy audit in your home, clean out your closet and donate your old clothes to a charity, volunteer for an environmental charity. The options are endless; just use your imagination!
We have come a long way since the first Earth Day in 1970. The environment has improved, but we all need to do our part to continue the conservation and preservation efforts of everyone around the world. I challenge you and your families to get involved April 22 and make a difference.