OPINION: This Earth Day, let’s remember the real change that still needs to be made

Price Wilborn, Commentary Editor

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated. The celebration followed years of environmental activism, and, according to earthday.org, “Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.”

Earth Day in 1970 came as a result of the work of Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who championed liberal policies and green initiatives. According to a website dedicated to Nelson and his work concerning Earth Day and conservation, the senator proposed a grassroots environmental teach-in to educate college students while showing those in power “just how distressed Americans were in every constituency.” He proposed a date of April 22, 1970, “a date chosen to fit best in college schedules between spring break and final exams.”

What started as a grassroots observance in the United States has grown into a global celebration of global importance. Many celebrations around the globe follow guidance or tips from earthday.org, which is “the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 150,000 partners in over 192 countries to drive positive action for our planet.”


Earth Day is an important day for raising awareness of poor practices and showing Washington and governments around the world, and Earth Day 2023 is no different.

The National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), writes that “it is virtually certain (>99.0%) that the year 2023 will rank among the 10-warmest years on record.” 

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “warned that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways,” according to the BBC. These activities have impacts that include the increase in CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere, deforestation, record heat, melting ice and thawing permafrost. NOAA writes that the impacts of climate change can have negative impacts on water and food supplies, health and infrastructure, among other things.

It is important to recognize that climate change is going to have negative impacts on the United States and the world, but American lawmakers cannot agree on how to combat the issue, if at all.

Democrats in Congress have taken steps to create positive change. New York’s Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a Green New Deal, which according to Ocasio-Cortez’s website, “is a jobs and justice-centered plan to decarbonize the U.S. economy within ten years.” According to grist.org, “The idea is to transition the U.S. off of fossil fuels and onto renewable sources of energy while simultaneously creating jobs and revitalizing minority and low-income communities.”

Republicans attacked the plan as too costly and too far-fetched, going so far as to push Democrats to continue debating it just so it could be defeated in Congress.

On its website, the Democratic Party writes that “climate change is a global emergency.” The party outlines what it wishes to do to combat this “global emergency,” proposing “a clean energy revolution” to “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050.”

Republicans, on the other hand, have no plans to effectively combat climate change. Under President Donald Trump and Republican leadership, the United States left the Paris Climate Agreement. In remarks announcing the U.S. pulling out of the agreement, Trump stated that “as President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers – who I love – and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of list jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”

The United Nations recently released a report on climate change, and, according to Fox News, Republican members of Congress were urged “to dismiss the United Nations’ ‘alarmist report’ on climate change.” Instead of working to protect Americans and the United States, Republicans wish to dismiss the work of an international organization that has the best interest of all the world’s citizens in mind.

This Earth Day, it is important for the United States to renew its commitment to protecting the environment for generations to come. Republicans have forgotten that it was Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency and began the “environmental decade,” which lasted from 1970 to 1980 and was a time of unprecedented progress in positive environmental change.

Climate change and environmental protection should continue to be at the forefront of American policymaking. It is important to remember that life will go on long after any of us are gone, and we must protect the future for all who will come after us. Our children and their children deserve a world where they can grow up without fear. They deserve to live the American Dream that so many have gotten to live before them.

Young people are passionate about climate change because it is their future at stake. Lawmakers must begin caring about the future, too. While they may not have a stake in the future past their next reelection, they must have the courage to protect the future for their descendants.

Let this Earth Day serve as a celebration of the work that has already been done, but also let it serve as a reminder of how far we have left to go. Important change must take place as soon as possible.

We can do this, and we must do this. For the future.

Commentary editor Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.

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