Crowd gathered at a 1990 Earth Day event.

This Date in UCSF History: The Decade of the Environment

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Originally published on April 22, 1990.

April 22, 1990 is Earth Day, an event promoting global ecological awareness. On that day, the “Decade of the Environment” will be formally launched. Its success depends on the participation of everyone.

The date marks the 20-year anniversary of the day when more than 20 million Americans in communities, schools and colleges across the United States mobilized out of concern over the irresponsible use of natural resources and by the widespread pollution of our soil, water and air.

It was a day of education for many; rallies and teach-ins increased participants' awareness of the interconnectedness of all life forms and the crucial importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

People took part in events ranging from nature walks and beach clean-up projects to direct non-violent actions against corporations that were polluting rivers and water supplies.

Although Earth Day 1970 was a great success, the pollution and environmental decay have not stopped.

Today, we face new, larger and more far-reaching environmental problems that will require a global effort to resolve. The ecological crisis calls for sustained actions, not just one Earth Day.

The Earth can tolerate only so much carbon dioxide buildup before the greenhouse effect, or global warming, alters climatic patterns around the world. Ozone depletion is running way ahead of its replenishment, posing increased health risks to all life sensitive to the sun's ultraviolet rays.

How many more Exxon Valdez oil spills can we afford? And how much longer will offshore oil drilling be considered in the quest for new sources of fossil fuel? Can we tolerate another Chernobyl?

What of our overflowing landfills and contaminated drinking water? Unless individual citizens take matters of environmental concern into their own hands, lasting changes, such as legislation to protect fragile habitats or to ban the use of toxic pesticides and the thoughtless dumping of industrial waste will not occur.

Earth Day 1990 should provide the impetus for a global and sustained grassroots movement to save the planet. It provides us with a new opportunity to address what is the most important long-term issue facing the human race today — survival. It is for this reason that every day should be Earth Day.

Some of the ways in which you can help save the planet:

  • Recycle everything (start with glass, plastic, metal, paper and motor oil). Save water, conserve energy and use transportation efficiently.
  • Buy and use those products least harmful to the environment. Do business with corporations that promote global environmental responsibility.
  • Support those candidates who demonstrate concern for the environment.
  • Support the passage of local, state and federal laws and international treaties that protect the environment.