Flash back to the very first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. The dangers of air and water pollution were front and center in the nascent American environmental movement. At the time, with vehicle and industrial emissions running rampant, many American cities were choked with smog.
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” published eight years prior, had put a spotlight on the environmental and human harms caused by largely unregulated pesticides like DDT. By 1969, a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California had dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Pacific, polluting miles of ocean and killing thousands of birds. That same year, Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River – formally one of America’s most polluted rivers – famously caught fire when sparks from a passing train ignited oily debris floating on the river’s surface.
By 1970, as the country’s serious environmental problems continued to make headlines, a new environmental consciousness had risen in America, and people started demanding changes to protect our water, air and natural treasures.
Fast forward 52 years. This week, people around the world will celebrate Earth Day 2022. On this anniversary, it’s worth taking a step back and considering how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. While we continue to focus on our ongoing environmental problems, it’s important to acknowledge where we’ve had success: the story of solar power in cities across America offers a shining example of that progress and its cumulative impact.