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Earth Day observed
(Apr. 14, 1994) — It was 24 years ago this April 22 when Earth Day was first observed to call attention to the health of the environment.
It was a big event back then, remembers Dr. Trenton Davis, an environmental health professor at East Carolina University. It was a celebration of sorts and a massive demonstration of support, by mostly young people, for cleaning up the air, the land and the water.
The buzz words then were ecology and environment. Anyone who shared the concerns for a better Earth was an ecologist or and environmentalist.
Plant a tree! Save the fish! No more smog! Somehow, all of the slogans and hoopla associated with Earth Day, worked.
“It led to the most important piece of environmental legislation we’ve ever had,” said Davis.
The legislation was the National Environmental Policy Act. It passed during the presidency of Richard Nixon.
Today, as a result of the legislation and other regulations, there is less pollution in the rivers and streams. Automobiles belch smaller amounts of carbon monoxide emissions. Dangerous insecticides are banned. Factories burn cleaner fuels. And overall, people are better informed too about most environmental issues.
“I can see this in our freshmen students,” said Davis. “They are much more knowledgeable about the environment.”
As for Earth Day, this annual event has become rather low key in recent years. There are conferences and displays at some colleges and universities but there is seldom anything to match the demonstrations of nearly a quarter century ago.
Davis remembers one in particular. It was in 1970 at the University of California—Berkeley where students pounded away on an automobile with a sledge hammer. After the car was thoroughly battered, it was buried.
“The automobile then was our greatest source of air pollution,” Davis said.
The stunt brought to the public’s attention the dangers of carbon monoxide. It led to new regulations that reduced these emissions.
“I’ll bet that each person who helped bury that car at Berkeley owns three automobiles today,” he said. “But the cars today are nowhere near the threat to our health as they were 1970,” he added.
He said Earth Day is still an important event. He said it serves to remind us that “we are still a long way from controlling all of the environmental issues that affect our health.”
ECU will commemorate Earth Day on Friday (April 22) by honoring some of the areas environmental professional and activists. The program, sponsored by the ECU Chapter of Epsilon Nu Eta, the National Environmental Health Honor Society, will start at 11 a.m. in Room 101 of the Belk (Allied Health) Building.
East Carolina University
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