Earth Day 2022, a bright spot this spring

We all know the adage, in order to preserve what you have, you have to protect it.

That can easily be applied to why a junior U.S. senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, created Earth Day in 1970. He was concerned about how rapidly the environment was breaking down and wanted to raise public awareness about water and air pollution.

In a brilliant show of strategic planning, Nelson figured he would capitalize on the student anti-war movement of the late 1960s. He managed to convince the conservative Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to serve as his co-chair. They brought in activist Denis Hayes to help organize campus teach-ins. April 22, a weekday between spring break and final exams, was selected as the official holiday to maximize student participation and national media attention.

Soon they realized their efforts could attract the attention and concern of young and old alike. Hayes and his staff of 85 worked on the campaign, holding events at organizations and faith groups across the nation.

April 22 was dubbed “Earth Day.” The catchy name caught on quickly, inspiring 20 million Americans — 10% of the total U.S. population back then — to demonstrate against how a century-and-a-half of industrial development had damaged the environment.

According to www.earthday.org, “By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act,  the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act.”

In another two years, Congress approved the Clean Water Act. One year later, it passed the Endangered Species Act; then the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

Ground-breaking for their time, those laws and the many passed since have helped to protect millions of people from harm along with hundreds of species from extinction, according to earthday.org.

Towns and villages here in the Harlem Valley continue to honor the Earth Day tradition with local celebrations, including in Millerton and Dover, on Friday, April 22, and Saturday, April 23, respectively.

The North East Millerton Climate Smart Community is presenting the Millerton Earth Day 2022 Invest In Our Planet Festival on the Great Lawn of The Millerton Inn on the 23rd, from noon to 5 p.m.

Earlier that day there will be a clean-up at the North East Community Center (NECC) on 51 South Center St., from 9 a.m. until noon, followed by a free screening of “The March of the Penguins,” at The Moviehouse at 48 Main St. Doors will open at 11 a.m. and the film will start at 11:30 a.m.

The main event will take place on the Great Lawn of the Inn, located at 53 Main St., from noon to 5 p.m.. That will be followed by Earth Day After Hours from 5 p.m. to beyond at 52 Main and The Millerton Inn, with selected Earth Day fare and cocktails.

This year, Christopher Virtuoso organized Millerton’s event for the Climate Smart group. For more on the activities throughout the day, read Page A2 or go to www.climatesmartmillerton.org/earthday2022.

For the first time since 2019, the town of Dover will also be seeing the return of Earth Day. Held at Dover Middle School this year, an excited Stancy DuHamel, a member of that town’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), is helping to promote the event.

While Dover’s Earth Day is not open to the public and is strictly for students in the Dover Union Free School District, we are so happy to see its return.

“I’m thrilled to tell you that Dover Earth Day is back on,” said DuHamel. “Now that the two-year COVID lockdown is over, the school has resumed celebrating Earth Day.”

DuHamel will be on hand to represent the CAC and to talk about what it takes for towns like Dover to be designated as a Climate Smart Community.

She added, “I think our students will be psyched to learn about our new Electric Vehicle [EV] charging stations.” Those EV stations are at the Dover Library in Wingdale at the intersection of Route 22 and Pleasant Ridge Road (County Route 21).

We think they’ll be thrilled as well, also to see local presenters like those from the Friends of the Great Swamp (FrOGS), which stretches from Brewster all the way up to Dover; and from Mid-Hudson Trout Unlimited, who will show and discuss various insects and other stream life in the Ten Mile River; and Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Education Program Leader Ashley Alred, who will talk about the Millbrook science institute’s work in the region; along with many others.

We are so pleased to see Earth Day return to Dover. The students love it, the staff and administrators love it, the CAC loves it and we love it — all for good reason.

Kudos to the Dover CAC for prioritizing schools in its outreach efforts and for sharing the important message behind Earth Day with students. They’re still at that age where such messaging can make a meaningful and lasting impact.

We hope Earth Day celebrations everywhere can do the same — on people of all ages — as we continue to work together to try to save our precious planet.

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