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Earth Month : a History of the Environmental Movement (part 2)
April 14, 2021 · Aaron Burr

Earth Month : a History of the Environmental Movement (part 2)

Earth Day is coming up, and last week we kicked off the first part of two posts regarding a large chunk of the environmental movement. This is the 2nd part, which picks up right around the creation of Earth Day in the 70’s. For a lot of events and ways of life leading up to this point, check out last week’s post! Otherwise, let’s carry on. 

Other notable mentions of the environmental movement is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, The Clean Air Act, and finally...Earth Day in 1970. The US and the world during the 60’s and 70’s were in an uproar of social and environmental justice.

People of all walks of life were opting for a different way of life, or pushing for a better one. And for the first time, the world began to unite around a single cause: protecting the environment. 1972 marked the very first time the world came together on the issue of the environment when the UN hosted the first World Conference on the Environment in Stockholm. 

Ups and downs

ups and downs

 However, we haven’t experienced only a smooth linear line of environmental progress from the first Earth Day to now. The environmental movement (like other forms of progress) has had plenty of ups and downs. As the US became more polarized, as it continues to do today, it experienced repetitive flip flopping of environmental progress and roll backs. Typically in line with whichever administration is elected.

Without a doubt stemming from the frustration of this cyclical flip flopping, organizations like Earth First! Gained notoriety and popularity since governmental action seemed to be inconsistent at best. 

As major incidents continued on such as the serious leak at a Carbide facility in Bhopal India which killed thousands, or Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, and many others that didn’t make headlines, It was time for the environmental movement to get serious.

Regulation and law

regulation and law

 From here we saw environmentalists trade in their tie dye for suits, with of course many deciding that connecting to nature was the best way to help the world. From here we saw the general public shift to most people believing in the urgency of treating the planet better. Especially with climate change data building and with it widespread support of climate action. 

While the environmental movement has experienced plenty of downs in the past decades, it has also experienced some rather historic ups as well. Major lawsuits have won incredible victories for harmed people, thus putting polluters into the spotlight.

In 2015 the Paris Agreement was reached, which is a legally binding international contract originally signed by 196 countries. Various single use bans have been enacted around the world, and more are planned for the future. Renewable energy prices have been slashed again and again, with their percentages of total power rising rapidly. Many countries have established deadlines to achieve 100% renewables or even net zero carbon footprints. 

Grassroots action

Grassroots action


Thousands of acres of land have been devoted to designated wilderness, nation park land, and conservation/rehabilitation. People have taken it upon themselves to not wait for government action in order to make a difference. We have started driving less, eating more eco friendly, creating less waste, and there’s even been a trend of buying less and focusing on the more important things.

Statistically, a lot of our footprint is getting worse, but a lot of that is due to new development and increasing population. On an individual level people are changing, and soon enough this will start to have an even greater impact on the overall footprint that this world is creating. 

There’s a lot of good that has happened even recently, along with plenty of bad. But there will always be bad news in the world, should we choose to search it out. It’s important to stay educated on the problems in the world in order to try and make it a better place, but we can also celebrate the good.

We’ve had a lot of success stories of environmental progress over the years, and of course a lot of failures. Both of these are equally as important in order to acknowledge our strengths and our weaknesses in creating a world more in line with treating the environment better.