“Too Political” For Earth Day?
This is how we’re honoring Earth Day’s roots
This month hundreds of Center for Biological Diversity volunteers are attending Earth Day festivals across the country to encourage others to join them in the fight to protect the environment. They’re urging Americans to hold politicians accountable who allow wolves and bears to be brutally killed in wildlife refuges, seek to sell our public lands, threaten our waterways, harm endangered species, and try to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency.
But, in some cities, our volunteers have been told to stay home — that their message is “too political” for Earth Day. That’s because many Earth Day festivals these days encourage an apolitical, greenwashed atmosphere. Organizers tell participants they can talk about kid-friendly and educational topics like recycling and gardening but not to bring up politics and environmental threats from private interests.
As a teacher, education holds an esteemed place in my core values. But we are doing children and adults a disservice by segregating our celebration of the Earth from activism on its behalf. How can we instill a love of the environment when the environment — and everything Earth Day stands for — is under attack?
What’s most frustrating is that Earth Day has never been about toned-down messaging. Twenty million Americans took to the streets in 1970 on the first Earth Day. They were marching from coast to coast against the destruction of the environment. People mobilized in response to oil spills, pollution, pesticides, the desecration of wilderness and extinction of wildlife. The protests then mirror our protests now for immigrants, for women, for civil liberties and to protect science. By the end of 1970, the movement had led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act — essential protections current political leadership intends to destroy.
And for decades that spirit of resistance for Earth Day continued, uniting people to fight the most pressing threats to the environment. Yet, in the past decade, Earth Day has become sanitized — a soft gesture without any teeth to protect our planet. It’s a day for selling Earth Day themed merchandise, organizing community festivals that don’t address real issues and Earthy-sounding social media posts from politicians who turn around and vote against the environment when the day is over.
Despite this, Center volunteers will bring the resistance to Earth Day festivals in red, purple and blue states across the nation. These Wildlife Warriors are working to unite and mobilize our divided nation — from New York to Seattle, from Los Angeles to Orlando and everywhere in between. Our volunteers will be in Lawrence, Kan., St. Louis, Mo., Shepherdstown, W. Va., and Hamden, Ct. Some festivals will have 60,000 attendees, some 300.
At these festivals, people will be able to learn about the threats to our planet, send postcards to their senators demanding the defense of environmental protections and sign the Pledge of Resistance to keep fighting Trump’s anti-environmental agenda for as long as it takes.
More than 180,000 people across the political spectrum have already signed the pledge and are passionate about keeping protections for wildlife and for the wild lands we all need for a healthy planet.
Nearly 50 years of Earth Day resistance, beginning with the bold actions of 1970, has led us to this moment. Now we must rise up again — to resist, to take a stand, to speak out, and to protect our Earth — just as activists before us did. We can’t allow this Congress and this president to destroy our communities by dismantling the protections we’ve worked so hard to establish.
So this year, let’s celebrate the planet by fighting to protect it. That’s what Earth Day has always been about. Join the resistance: Speak out.
Jennifer Molidor is the senior food campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity.