In January of 1969, an oil platform six miles off the southern California coast experienced a blowout. Over the next ten days, millions of gallons of crude oil spewed into the Pacific Ocean, fouling 35 miles of Santa Barbara County coastline and the Channel Islands. Thousands of birds and marine mammals died, coated in the sludge.
In response, environmental advocates and elected officials mobilized to create new environmental regulations and raise environmental awareness. On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated in communities and on college campuses across the country.
Nearly half a century later, Earth Day is “the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year,” according to Denis Hayes, former chair of the Earth Day Network and organizer of the first Earth Day celebration.
Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22. The theme for Earth Day 2018 is End Plastic Pollution. Most plastic is made from petroleum or natural gas, and may contain chemicals that are harmful to humans. Since its invention in 1907, 9.1 billion tons of virgin (nonrecycled) plastic has been produced. 5.5 billion tons of plastic waste is already in landfills or circulating in the natural environment, such as in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of man-made debris in the north Pacific Ocean that is twice the size of Texas. According to the Earth Day Network, only 9 percent of all the plastic ever created has been recycled, and plastic bags and other nonbiodegradable plastics pose significant danger to wildlife.
If you want to take action on Earth Day, resources are available on Earth Day’s official website, where you can download a plastic pollution primer, which includes information about plastic pollution and a plastic footprint calculator. You can also register to attend an Earth Day event, or host your own event.
Closer to home, the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) will host its fifth annual Earth, Safety, and Wellness Day on Thursday, May 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the breezeway at its Headquarters 1 building at 1625 N. Market Blvd. in Sacramento. The event will focus on ideas and solutions for environmental protection and preservation and health and safety both at work and in the home. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with representatives of related nonprofit organizations and small business vendors. If you’re hungry, a variety of food trucks will be on-site. DCA employees may invite family and friends to the event.