Not a lot seems to be scheduled here for Earth Day, which comes next Thursday and marks the 51st anniversary of the first Earth Day. It is the pandemic no doubt that has prevented organized activities, but that does not mean that individuals cannot step outside to pick up litter, support an environmental group, or cut back on fossil-fuel use and nonrecyclables.
On April 22, 1970, the East Hampton Town Planning Board met to discuss, among other things, a proposal to keep development out of wetlands. We take for granted today that houses should not be built in marshes, but before the 1970s, filling and grading these sensitive areas was routine. Before the board took up the wetlands issue, its vice chairman, Richard F. White, read an Earth Day statement pledging to maintain rural characteristics, prevent water pollution, and preserve natural resources. Measured by much of the rest of Long Island, this was the beginning of five decades of qualified success.
By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency 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. Following came the Clean Water Act in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973. There is still much to fight for, but imagine if the environmental movement had not happened.