It's hard to believe, but 44 years ago, on April 22, 1970, a war divided America was able to unite around one cause: environmentalism. On that day, 20 million people gathered for rallies, teach-ins and street blockades. Following the calls of a Democratic senator and a Republican congressman, Gaylord Nelson and Pete McCloskey, they protested against the increasing destruction of the environment. Earth Day was born.
More than four decades later environmentalism is nothing new, nor are the problems we face. Some things have gotten better, others worse. (An article in today's New York Times, Forty-Four Years of Earth Day, highlights some of the achievements and challenges.) On the political front, the demonstrative unity of the original Earth Day is gone. What has sprung up instead are local grassroots movements and within them the often quiet but active will of many individuals to engage themselves for a more sustainable world by picking up shovels in community gardens and by sharing their backyard crop, talents and services.
In Pasadena, an especially large number of groups is pushing for a more resilient community. What ties RIPE Altadena, the Arroyo S.E.C.O. Network of Time Banks, Transition Pasadena e.a. to the original Earth Day is the belief that our environment needs protecting. But there is also something that separates them: their form of environmentalism is as much about doing as about protesting.
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To find out more about local sustainability groups visit their tables at the Pasadena Earth & Arts Festival on May 3.
To learn more about the history of Earth Day go to http://www.earthday.org/greencities/earth-day-2014/history-of-earth-day/. And while you're there, make sure to watch the 5-minute replay of a TV interview with two of the organizers of Earth Day No. 1.