Earth Day began on April 22, 1970 with an impassioned speech by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson who, at the height of protests against the war in Vietnam, asked whether money might be better spent on solving environmental problems instead. Response to the challenge was swift with the launch of the Environmental Protection and Clean Energy Acts in the U.S. and the founding of Pollution Probe and Greenpeace in Canada.
But as quickly as the environmental movement was born subsequent decades have laid claim to environmental disasters from wars to nuclear explosions, chemical spills, toxic gas leaks, and oil spills. Questions remains such as why, 50 years after the first Earth Day, has so little headway been made to protect our precious planet?
Furthermore, why was our early activism replaced by complacency that led to weakened environmental laws, extreme weather conditions and environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Where have we failed? Where have we succeeded? While international awareness led to innovation and campaigns to protect the planet, there remains an enormous gap of indifference from political leaders down to everyday people about the fragility of our planet’s future.
CineFocus Canada is tackling these questions in a new documentary and interactive experience, Hindsight in 2020. By taking a chronological approach to telling the story of the modern environmental movement viewers will see how world events and public policy have supported or challenged individual efforts over time and learn that there is still time to turn things around if we adopt solutions that are available to each one of us.
The onset: In 1970 municipal recycling did not exist in Ontario before a small women’s group from Burlington initiated the idea of a recycling experiment. Their major aim — once they had completed the initial research with just over 250 families — was to propose that the City of Burlington offer municipal recycling for its citizens.
The group of housewives was known as Citizens Committee for Pollution Control (CCPC) and their door to door campaign to collect bottles and cans led to the province’s first recycling program. In 1981, Burlington was the first city in Ontario to begin municipal recycling with curbside pickup of “separated at source” household waste.
The original group has undergone a recent revival under the banner “Recycling Revisited.” The goal of Recycling Revisited is to preserve the memory of an amazing citizen action, led by up to 1,000 people at a time, to inspire those who are concerned about other environmental issues to gather with like-minded others in order to implement some positive change.
Mid-point: This environmental story illustrates the David and Goliath challenge facing environmentalists around the world who want to protect natural resources, such as old growth forest, against consumer demand. To do this we turn to Green Hero, Tzeporah Berman and her experience at Clayoquot Sound 25 years ago.
Prior to coordinating the historic blockades in 1993, Tzeporah Berman had never been to a protest in her life. She was among one thousand people arrested, marking the largest civil disobedience action in Canada’s history. She was acquitted of the 850 criminal charges she faced, marking a real tipping point in Canada on environmental issues.
In a recent Globe and Mail editorial, she writes of her experience on the blockades 25 years ago and its relationship to the the Kinder Morgan pipeline protests today.
Present Day: Each year, Earth Day creates themed events leading to the 2020 challenge to engage citizens from across the globe in action actions to save the planet. In 2018 the Earth Day campaign to end plastic pollution had significant results raising awareness and participation around the world. In 2019, Earth Day Canada is teaming up with Kamik Footwear to celebrate Earth Day by inviting families to #FreeYourPlay and make a commitment to step outside and connect with the environment through play.
According to UN research, children in Canada are losing their connection to nature due to a sharp decrease in the amount of time they spend outside. Our Green Hero Ta’Kaiya Blaney, featured in the TVO episode, Back to Nature, tells us why more young people like herself should take to the great outdoors.
For more information about the campaign and upcoming events, including resources for how to bring outdoor, unstructured play into your own community and family, visit Kamik.com/FreeYourPlay or EarthPlay.ca.