Premonitions of an environmental earthquake from original Earth Day national coordinator Denis Hayes
By Denis Hayes | Mar 2 2020 | The national magazine of the Sierra Club
On Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I rolled off my mattress in my shared basement hovel at 4 A.M. and walked a couple of miles down Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC, to a dim circle of light on the National Mall. There, I joined a group of Indigenous leaders, who welcomed the rising sun with chants and dances.
I had high hopes for the day—the first Earth Day. Organizers had sweeping demands for breathable air and clean rivers as well as banning DDT, halting offshore drilling, saving the whales, and removing lead from paint and gasoline. I thought we would score some victories, but I never dreamed how fundamentally Earth Day would alter the political, cultural, and economic landscape.
The enormous challenges — but also the vast opportunities — of acting on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.
At the end of 2020, nations will be expected to increase their national commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The time is now for citizens to call for greater global ambition to tackle our climate crisis. Unless every country in the world steps up – and steps up with urgency and ambition — we are consigning current and future generations to a dangerous future.
Earth Day 2020 will be far more than a day. It must be a historic moment when citizens of the world rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.
When is Earth Day 2020?