April 29, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Tia Vierling | Illustration by Sierra Romero

Scientist and writer Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” begins with a dim view of the world with “A Fable for Tomorrow.” In that piece of writing, Carson lays out the harmful impacts of DDT, a biocide, on the natural world. Carson’s work is often referenced as one of the watershed moments for the environmental movement: in its wake came new environmental protections, like the banning of DDT, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carson’s work encouraged public awareness of environmental issues. Today, it’s difficult—perhaps impossible—to find a Colorado College student who isn’t aware of climate change and other environmental challenges facing the modern world. In some cases, we still don’t know the full impact of pollutants, like microplastics; in others, it’s rising sea levels and bleaching coral.

Earth Day—April 22, 2022—fell as a part of Earth Week, which CC students dove into with full force. But where did Earth Day (and Week) come from, and why do they carry such weight today?

The answer traces back to the changes in environmental attitudes catalyzed by Carson’s work. In 1969, an oil spill in California inspired Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to work with partners to create an initiative on college campuses focusing on environmentalism—the event that would become Earth Day 1970.

The event spread beyond just colleges, galvanizing nearly 10% of the United States’ population to participate in related demonstrations. Environmental activists came together to use the day as a boost for their causes.

According to the Earth Day website, Earth Day is now “the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.”

The idea of keeping the Earth safe from harm has never been more relevant than today, when many are concerned about the slow pace of improvement in climate and environmental policy. Activists experienced everything from anxiety to anger during the Trump administration, which rolled back more than 100 environmental rules and regulations intended to protect both people and sensitive environments such as wetlands. Even today, the rate of transition to renewable energy sources and establishment or maintenance of environmental protections remains slower than many would prefer.

Here in Colorado Springs, local groups and students alike have stepped up on Earth Day and during Earth Week to give back. Houseless people have partnered with a local non-profit to clean up creek beds. CC donated a dozen trees to plant with volunteers in a nearby area to help replace the devastation wrought by the record-breaking windstorm earlier this year, when the college alone lost 50 trees. Students are participating during Earth Week in everything from a Fountain Creek Cleanup this Saturday, April 30, to a B2WD—Bike to Work Day.

In the spirit of Earth Day, students are taking action at a grassroots level to benefit the environment. Here’s hoping the next “Fable for Tomorrow” will be a more positive one, with individuals putting pressure on corporations to act as stewards of the environment just as much as Earth Day activists already work to do.

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