Earth Day an annual wake-up call that we only get one planet

Every year, Earth Day reminds us of the importance of our planet and of how forward-thinking environmental initiatives can have long-lasting and significant impacts on our world.

Gaylord Nelson, a Wisconsin politician, was a leading figure in the organization of Earth Day, which first came about April 22, 1970.

The 1970s were a period of environmental awakening in much of mainstream America as public outcry grew over toxic air and polluted waterways, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality stated in a recent news release.

“The swell of support for pollution control and environmentally progressive policies led to the swift passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species acts,” the release reads. “These acts had huge impacts for the Great Lakes.”

There’s no doubt that the people here in the Upper Peninsula, surrounded by the largest collection of fresh water in the world, care deeply about our environment.

Since the ’70s, the DEQ says the Great Lakes have benefitted from cleanups of contamination, recycling initiatives and other efforts.

“The good new is, we’ve come a long way, but now is not the time to stop making progress,” the DEQ said, and we have to agree.

The environment of our planet will likely always need a steady steward, and while our government officials and elected representatives may not always agree on the best way to do that, it shouldn’t stop you from doing something simple.

Plant a tree, eat less meat or try to recycle more. Try walking or riding your bicycle instead of driving. If you see a piece of trash on the sidewalk, pick it up and dispose of it properly. These are all things that can be done with relative ease. If everyone helps out just a little, it can have serious results.

We encourage you to find some way to take part in Earth Day, but it’s important to remember that improving the condition of our planet is not a once-a-year venture.

Actually, Gaylord Nelson said Earth Day is about more than just improving our country’s air, water and land.

In a 1970 speech, Nelson told an Earth Day crowd in Denver, Colorado, that his goal was for an environment of decency and respect for all other human beings and living creatures, and creating an American ethic that sets new standards for progress, emphasizing human dignity.

“Are we able to meet the challenge?” he asked. “Yes. We have the technology and the resources. Are we willing? That is the unanswered question.”