Just before dawn today, Earth Day 2016, I took this photo of moonset over the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains. In 1970, when the first Earth Day occurred, I was a sophomore in high school. I didn't know the word "environmentalist," but I'd always been one. I believed in conservation. As a little kid I'd joined the National Wildlife Federation and been a big fan of Ranger Rick. I'd walk the beach with my grandmother and a neighbor, picking up litter. For my science project in eighth grade I made a movie with my family's super 8 camera showing pollution along the Connecticut shoreline and in the Connecticut River. I always loved nature and felt it was the responsibility of all of us to protect it.
Back then the sky got cloudy and our eyes stung with smog--everyone used unleaded gas to fill the tanks of their...well, tanks. Big cars with big engines. Many rivers and lakes were filled with toxic sludge, some salt water coves were unsafe for swimming or fishing. Rachel Carson had written the wonderful and prescient Silent Spring in 1962, catching on with readers, and starting to raise the awareness. In 1969 there was a blowout at Platform A in the Santa Barbara Channel, causing a devastating oil spill that destroyed marine life--including over three thousand sea and shore birds--along the mainland and in the pristine environment of the Channel Islands.
All of this led to the creation of Earth Day. Shortly after, the Environmental Protection Agency was created, and the Endangered Species, Clean Air and Clean Water acts were passed. Luckily, very belatedly, awareness about our environment has continued to grow, but some people still live in the dark ages and want to cut back on protections while denying climate change.
Much more hearteningly, there are people and organizations writing and working to save protect the planet--wildlife, habitat, the oceans, the land, the air, and humans--including my friend Carl Safina and the Safina Center. And, I hope, many of you reading this.