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50 Years of Earth Day

Today, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This holiday would not have been possible without the inspiration of a Wisconsin senator named Gaylord Nelson and Congressman Pete McCloskey. These men wanted college students to understand the impacts of America’s industrial revolution, and how it had affected the country’s air quality, water quality and human health. Who knew that what started out as a United States celebration is now recognized around the world?

By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the eventual creation of numerous pieces of legislation that have enabled us to continue knowing what elements of a sound environment should look like. Some of these include:

  • 1972 – Marine Mammal Protection Act-All marine mammals are protected under the MMPA.
  • 1972-Clean Water Act-establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters. The basis of CWA was enacted in 1948 but became official in 1972.
  • 1973-Endangered Species Act-responsible for protecting imperiled species, provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found.
  • 1976- Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act -The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters. Most recently amended in 1996.

This year, we’re working under slightly different conditions: most of us are working or learning from home. While we humans are frustrated at being confined and having to alter the routines of our daily lives, it seems as though Mother Nature is taking advantage of our respite. Aerial and satellite photos from around the world have shown an improvement in water quality, as well as lowered carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to witnessing more species of wildlife above water and in it, I’ve received calls from volunteers, students and colleagues sharing similar reports, from rare birds staging on beaches, sightings of endangered smalltooth sawfish, to dolphins and fish gallivanting in Biscayne Bay. It is critically important that we not only cherish these experiences but remember them as we eventually come out of quarantine and resume “normal” life, and try to make choices or changes that will allow our environment to continue thriving.

Photograph of a black-necked stilt. Credit: Wikipedia

What can you do?

  • Join myself and Miami Eco-Adventures for our weekly webinar series, “Conservation Conversations” every Friday at 1:00 pm or 5:00 pm.
  • Follow tips for proper landscaping and irrigation practices for your home.
  • Plant a Florida-Friendly yard.
  • Drive less, walk more, and take public transit when possible.
  • Employ sustainable fishing practices, practice catch-and-release, follow current fishing regulations.
  • Take care when boating: watch for marine life, use mooring buoys instead of anchoring, follow speed zone requirements, secure debris from flying off of your boat.
  • Refuse single-use items and reduce your dependence on items that are disposable-bring your own Tupperware to a restaurant when you go out to eat.
  • Compost at home.

I’ll be heading out soon with my mask to look for spotted eagle rays in Bear Cut. Happy Earth Day.