Editor's note: This team-written column is one in a series of five about Earth Day, all written from a different life perspective.
It's April 22, 1970, and across the nation, from New York City to Eugene, Ore., legions of gas-mask-adorned Americans are congregating. A pig-tailed child wears an oversized T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Let me grow up!" This is not a revolutionary scene from a dystopic 1940s novel. This is Earth Day, in its original and best form.
We aim to put current events in the context of history and frame issues based on their change or consistence over time.
Katelyn Amen is a senior magazine major. Last spring, she wrote for the education beat at the Missourian. Dean Asher is a senior. He reported on lifestyles at the Missourian in the fall of 2010. Kelly Moffitt is a junior magazine major. Last fall, she wrote for Vox Magazine.
In an NBC newscast that night, anchor Frank Blair referred to the day as "the first massive nationwide protest against the pollution of the environment."
Wait, protest? Isn't Earth Day about flowers and recycling bins and freshly planted trees and fetching children dancing around maypoles?
Today, it's more of a celebration to politely raise awareness of environmental issues and allow businesses to point out how eco-friendly they are. Instead of focusing on the fact that by 2030 there will probably be no glaciers left in Glacier National Park, Earth Day is used as a PR trick, failing to recognize what an immense threat looms over our environment today.
In 1970, Americans didn't know global warming existed. They were simply incensed to protest because of river pollution.
Being environmentally tuned in is a hard hurdle to leap in a culture that values industrial and domestic development and apathy. We shouldn't pretend with light-hearted celebrations. We should instead recapture that air of anger and worry and call for immediate action by instituting protests instead of parades.
The original Earth Day, the work of Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Congressman Pete McCloskey, led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clear Air and Clean Water acts and the Endangered Species Act. Most would agree these steps moved us forward in the battle for greater environmental protection.
If Americans can recapture that same air of can-do, must-do, will-do on Earth Day, perhaps we could make as much of a stride as happened after the original Earth Day.