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Earth Day and the Human Revolution

by Eric McLamb
Ecology Prime™ News Features

Over 200 years have zipped by since humans began to truly command the planet’s resources in ways that have taken our global society to unprecedented heights and advances in modern living.  That was the dawn of the Industrial Revolution which marked not only the start of society’s prodigious developments in everyday living, business and industry, but also the start of humankind’s dominance over their environment. 

Human population began to explode as a result of the Industrial Revolution due to significant improvements in health and living.  With seemingly unlimited resources at hand – along with exponentially increasing capability to harvest and use them, human population has grown unabated ever since… and with it, increased use of natural resources to support it.  This is the human side of the Industrial Revolution. 

The Revolution of Modern Man

This Human Revolution goes hand in hand with – but is not synonymous with – the Industrial Revolution. While modern humans began to flourish as a species some 35,000 years ago at about the time Neanderthals became extinct, it would take thousands of years before they collectively developed ways to make power tools to do the work (and ultimately the thinking) much better than they were physically and mentally capable of. 

Simply stated, the Industrial Revolution was the game changer for human life.  It paved the way for humans to grow exponentially in numbers under mostly healthy conditions and live in places formerly inhospitable to human life.  They would be able to live in the harsh climate of Antarctica and even begin to live in orbit thousands of miles above Earth.

The dawn of the Industrial Revolution, which started in England around 1760, marked the era of humans’ dominance over the environment as fossil-fuel powered machines gave rise to unprecedented progress in living. It would take humans over 200 years to realize the enormous harm and damage this progress has caused to the environment’s vital life support systems. As a result, Earth Day was born in 1970 that today commemorates and reinforces efforts for environmental conservation and living sustainability for all life. (Image: Madeley Wood-Coal Furnaces in Coalbrookdale England – 1801 by Philip de Loutherbourg)

In this way, humans began to dominate their environments to support their families, to protect their property, to grow and prosper.  Humans are the planet’s dominant species today. 

But in the 1960s leading into the 1970s, humans began to realize that the unbridled progress enjoyed by society was coming at a price that would seriously and negatively affect human living.  Air, land and water pollution, deforestation, over-population, starvation, lack of drinkable water, sanitation and abject poverty began to override the period of sustained economic prosperity the world would begin to see in the 1920s.  And while world economic, industrial and technological growth has reached unprecedented heights, the human condition is just as quickly beginning to deteriorate as a result of the effects of the rampant employment of human ingenuity.

Society today by and large understands this.  But the mechanism for needed change is not that near at hand.  We began to understand the downside of how we attained such prosperity after we passed the point of commercial no return. 

Now we have to retrofit what we have built around the right use of resources and decisions governing human consumption and development at all levels if the Human Revolution is to succeed.  This is doable, but society is still too reluctant to embrace such a new world because there is collectively not enough motivation.

Logically, people know and understand that the energy from the sun alone can provide all of the world’s power needs… but there is not enough motivation as yet to aggressively move in that direction.  Fossil fuels are too easy and extremely lucrative so much to the extent that they control the world’s economy.  They fueled the Industrial Revolution and they still provide the vast majority of today’s power needs.  Before the Industrial Revolution, machines were used which neither caused pollution nor depleted finite natural resources.  The two primary resources then were wind and water… not to mention pure muscle power.

When Things are Worst, People Are at Their Best

History has demonstrated time and again that people always do what is needed to survive.  When things are at their worst, people can be at their best.  But that should be of no solace if that is what it will take for the species to survive within a naturally healthy global environment.

Humans understood the vital importance of its natural environment in the early days of the Industrial Revolution when the first Arbor Day was held to celebrate and plant trees as vital to living, health, hygiene and beautification.  This started in Spain in 1805 without the prescience of the impending impact of the Industrial Revolution; it has since grown in greater importance and popularity around the world. 

Earth Day – Catalyst for Human Change

The impact of human progress is perhaps most notably observed at Earth’s north and south poles – the Arctic and Antarctica, especially the Arctic north pole where the polar ice cover has been vanishing at an alarming rate due to the warming of ocean currents from human activity. Arctic ice coverage has fallen to less than 50% of its coverage since the late 1970s as Earth Day began building its global momentum. Pictured is a polar bear hunting fish among the Arctic waters. (NASA photo)

But Earth Day would be born during the time when society began to understand the magnitude of environmental degradation from human activity and environmental dominance.  Earth Day started out in 1970 as a National Teach-in Day in the United States and has grown into a marked international celebration and observation of the relationship between humans and their planet home.  Today it is celebrated, actively observed and coordinated by 197 countries through the Earth Day Network

Earth Day can become the catalyst for human change of the scale that can effectively and constructively sync the Human Revolution with the trajectory the Industrial Revolution has given humankind. 

The original Earth Flag, designed in 1970 by Earth Day founder and pioneer John McConnell, was inspired by the photo images of Earth from the Apollo 10 mission. Its message is that of global unity and peace.

But it has to be more than just one day of ecological and environmental cognizance and celebration.  It can make Earth serious business on the personal, professional, technological, commercial and political levels every day, and yes, make it as fascinating and compelling as it is necessary and vital in order to bring about the critical mass of change needed.

It is known that a number of things can bring an end to human life as we know it just as quickly as it has evolved.  Anywhere from antibiotic resistant superbugs, nuclear attack and an impact by a massive asteroid or coronal mass ejection from the sun could be the event that brings humankind to the precipice of life and death when only such change can be made.  That time does not have to come. 

Earth Day can be the catalyst… as long as we understand that, in reality, every day is Earth Day. — EP

Did You Know…?

Created in 1969 as a result of the environmental movement in the 1960s, this flag was the original de facto emblem for Earth Day. (Original design by Ron Cobb)
  • Earth Day is celebrated every year on Aprill 22, although many events are scheduled in commemoration of Earth Day on the weekends before and after the day.
  • April 22 was chosen as the date because it was the optimal time between spring break and final exams when students could participate.
  • Earth Day started in 1970 in the United States, drawing 20 million people to participate in the streets, parks and schools to bring attention to environmental causes.
  • Since its beginnings, Earth Day has reached countries on all continents, including Iran, Nigeria, Argentina and Australia. Today, 197 countries observe and participate in Earth Day.
  • Earth Day was years in the making, starting in 1962 with the publishing of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring which created nationwide interest in environmental issues.
  • Earth Day events have included planting hundreds of millions of trees, supporting sustainable agriculture practices, and promoting climate literacy projects worldwide.
  • India rallied together for a Guinness World Record in honor of Earth Day on July 11, 2018, when 800,000 people banded together to plant 49.3 million trees in 24 hours, achieving the title for the most trees planted in a single day.
High school girls in India joined the country’s Guiness World Record setting feat of planting nearly 50 million trees in one day in commemoration of Earth Day in 2018. Today, 197 nations participate in Earth Day activities to support sound environmental practice and policy and raise awareness of current ecological issues.

About the Author…. Eric McLamb is the founder of Ecology Prime™ and has spent most of his career building a core team and business affiliations in developing a platform on which all people, students, teachers, consumers and businesses can come together on common ground in support of global ecological security and sustainability. He is published in multiple media including textbooks and consumer publications.