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Today’s environment movement began between the nineteen-sixties and the nineteen seventies in the United States. The early form of the movement stemmed from a couple well known environmental disasters and issues. Over the past five decades, environmentalism has become a multifaceted movement. It is an issue that passes through politics on a local, state, and federal level, influences education, health, the media, along with many other things. As people in power and big corporations continue to make decisions based on their want for money, they begin to disregard the harmful effects they are having on human life and the environment we live in, this is why the environmental movement is still relevant today and growing environmental concerns have become fixed in the awareness of the American population.
The modern-day environmental movement in the United States stems from multiple publicised events through the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies, which include oil spills on the coastlines of California, hydrogen bomb testing on Bikini Atoll, and the growing usage of chemicals, like insecticides and many others.
In the nineteen-sixties the pollution of the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie, called for the rise of Environmentalism in the United States, it was publicised throughout the media as the “Lake Erie Fire” and greatly assisted in environmental consciousness throughout the American Population. Debris on the Cuyahoga River was on fire, leading to severe property damage because of how polluted Lake Erie and waterways nearby were. This event was the most perfect representation of environmental destruction at the time that Randy Newman wrote the song “Burn on” based off of its inspiration and Dr.
Suess’ environmental awareness book, The Lorax, incorporates the name “Lake Erie” into it at one point.
In the nineteen-sixties and the nineteen-seventies, the environmental movement was mainly focused on preservation. This growing concern for preservation of forests, lakes, rivers, and so on, in the United States came about as a result of the lake fires, like the “Lake Erie Fire,” oil spills, and the use of insecticides. Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” sheds light on the result of the use of insecticides and a pesticide called DDT, Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, has on animals, specifically the bird population. One bird species that was impacted by humans’ use of the chemical DDT was the bald eagle; it reduced this species’ population and thinned the bird’s egg shell lines. The bald eagles recognized as an endangered species attracted the media, mainly because it’s the nation’s bird, resulting in the creation and implementation of laws such as the Endangered Species Act.
The effect environmental destruction has on the human race and it’s population also became a worry, ensuring that environmentalism will be a topic that must be addressed in the democratic agenda throughout Kennedy and Johnson’s administration. Because of the growing consciousness of what environmental damage can have on our health and it’s dangers, the establishment of many laws were put into place, but not until President Richard Nixon took office in nineteen-sixty nine. Democrats sponsored the National Environmental Policy Act of Nineteen-Sixty Nine, “which required an environmental impact assessment before approval of government and corporate development projects and allowed citizen activists and environmental groups to file lawsuits against prominent polluters.” Nixon was hesitant when signing this legislation and promised to start a nationwide campaign with the goal of protecting the environment. But, today many environmental activists tend to criticize Richard Nixon for unsuccessfully acting on what he had said with strong enforcement against big corporations. “Born in the wake of elevated concern about environmental pollution, EPA was established on December 2, 1970 to consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.” The Clean Air Act of Nineteen-Seventy gave the Environmental Protection Agency the responsibility of ensuring we have good air quality to maintain the public welfare and health. The Clean Act of Nineteen-Seventy Two served to regulate the quality of our water and the pollution that is dispersed into our waters.
Anti-Vietnam and New Left Movements were alongside the Environmental Movements on college campuses. The rising environmental activism in the nineteen-sixties influenced the making of the first Earth Day in nineteen-seventy and the teach-ins on the environment that occured in schools all around the nation.
Today, the Environmental Movement is no longer about just preserving our environment, but it is more focused on climate change and greatly takes into account class, race, and gender. When the first Earth Day occurred on April Twenty-Second, Nineteen-Seventy, the movement was mainly focused on pollution in the United States, now we have shifted the focus to climate change and although climate change affects us all, it affects others more severely specifically low-income people of color. According to National Geographic, climate change can be defined as “a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th century to present.” The cause of climate change today is by human activity, a good example would be the burning of fossil fuels. Multiple UN scientists said that we have twelve years to form every aspect of the economy into one that will stop the climate crisis.
In hopes of slowing down climate change, climate activists are pushing to pass the Green New Deal, a ten year plan to fight the climate crisis. This was proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and asks the federal government to part away from fossil fuels and dangerous greenhouse emissions in the American economy, along with assuring new, well-paying jobs in clean energy industries. It also attempts to fixs issues in society, like racial injustice and economic inequality. It is important to keep in mind that if the Congress approves of the Green New Deal, it will not be put into place as a law. As written by Lisa Friedman in her article “What Is the Green New Deal? A Climate Proposal, Explained,” she writes “The resolution uses as its guide two major reports issued last year by the United Nations and by federal scientists who warned that if global temperatures continue to rise, the world is headed for more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts. The research shows that the United States economy could lose billions of dollars by the end of the century because of climate change.” According to the Green New Deal, we must meet net-zero emission by twenty-fifty worldwide, with the United States taking the lead in doing so. Republicans, which include President Donald Trump himself, Senator Tom Cotton, and Senator John Barrasso claimed that the Green New Deal will take away one’s “airplane rights,” force Americans to “ride around on high-speed light rail, supposedly powered by unicorn tears,” and livestock would be banned; All invalid statements that are not stated in the proposal. The document does ask the federal government to invest in policies and projects that can alter how we travel, eat, and architecture, but none of which is stated above, while also distancing away from rejecting certain technologies or sources of energy with hopes of gaining more support.
The Sunrise Movement is currently one of the largest and most well-known organizations throughout the nation that is using an army of young people to fight against climate change, pass the new deal, and give millions of jobs to the next generation. It began in the summer of 2017, when a small group of young climate activists joined forces with an interesting idea: creating a movement large enough to match the size of the threat that is the climate crisis. They spent almost a year studying contemporary social movements, and historical social movements which include but aren’t limited to the Civil Rights Movement, LGBTQ Movements, Anti-Vietnam War Movements in order to replicate our generations “Vietnam Era level of mobilization,” but they believe that is what is necessary. They built support from numerous people around the country and began to take action, facing politicians with progessive views on climate and receiving the support from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. This brought national attention and Sunrise Movement branches/hubs began to spread all throughout the nation. Shortly after, Mitch McConnell decided he wanted to rush the vote of the Green New Deal, so the Sunrise Movement planned an emergency action. Representatives of the movement flew to Washington D.C. and occupied his office to protest. Varshini Parkash says, they are “making this an issue a political priority” the federal government can’t avoid and the youth is a part of that.
Within the past six months, I have attempted to do what I can do in order to fight the climate crisis as an individual. It is because of the research I had done on the topic on my own, as well as my friend, and climate activist, John Paul Mejia’s input and influence. It wasn’t until then that I realized the severity of this issue and the importance of every individual to act on it as soon as possible. I grew deeply concerned with not only what would happen in my future, but also my family’s future, as well as our generation’s children. It was a wake-up call in my mind that made me aware of the fact that if we don’t act now, we may not have a planet to live on in a century from now.
There are multiple small changes you can make in your own lifestyle in order to act against this issue. To start off, I have minimized my use of plastic and when I do use it I recycle it properly. I have also attempted to reduce my carbon footprint, have attended multiple climate protests, and joined the Cleo Institute. Like stated on the website, “The CLEO Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization exclusively dedicated to climate change education, engagement, and advocacy in Florida,” based in Miami; Cleo is a great and easy way to get involved in the environmental movement in the United States.
One extremely easy thing I did and anyone can do is become informed. Although, this issue may seem obvious to some, to many others they may not have a clue and if they do, they most likely don’t understand how serious the climate crisis actually is. Try reducing your carbon footprint by traveling by walking, bike riding, using public transportation, and so on (transportation is one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions around the world!). What I also like to do is shop smarter. I make sure that the companies I am contributing to support sustainability and are transparent as to where their products are sourced from. Lastly, you can vote for the Earth. By this I mean that you should vote for politicians in favor of the Green New Deal and address the issue. It is up to the youth to determine where we go in our journey of fighting the climate crisis.
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