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Fresno Earth Day Event Reinforces Importance of Environmental Protection



Writer Andrea De Zubiria notes that prior to the 1970s, when Earth Day was established, there were minimal legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment. (Shutterstock)
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I grew up in the 70’s with Woodsy Owl saying  “Give a Hoot Don’t Pollute,” the crying “Indian” public service announcements and Smokey the Bear cavorting with Disney animals to tell us that only we could prevent wildfires.  I had no idea that such “environmentalist” messages were kind of a new thing at the time.  I also did not know that prior to the 1970s there were minimal legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the environment.


Andrea De Zubiria

Earth Day Fresno will take place at Fresno City College on Saturday from 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. 

Imagine a time when there was no Environmental Protection Act, no Clean Air Act and no Clean Water Act.   Factories were free to spew pollutants into the air, urban water supplies were being contaminated with impunity, hardly any Americans had heard of recycling and the pesticide DDT (along with lax hunting laws)  almost wiped out the Bald Eagle. 

But in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, about the indiscriminate use of pesticides, brought attention to the interdependence of humans and nature.  Then some dramatic disasters like a giant oil spill around Santa Barbara and a contaminated river that burst into flames near Cleveland, heightened Americans’ awareness of our effect on the air and water that we depend on.  

In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda. He called on students to fight for environmental causes with the same energy that they displayed in opposing the Vietnam War. An estimated 20 million people nationwide attended the inaugural events across the country, mainly at schools and universities, including at Fresno State. 

 As a result of heightened public concern, Republican President Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970. According to the EPA, he presented the House and Senate “a groundbreaking 37-point message on the environment.”  These points included:

  • requesting four billion dollars for the improvement of water treatment facilities;
  • asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions;
  • launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution;
  • ordering a clean-up of federal facilities that had fouled air and water;
  • seeking legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes;
  • proposing a tax on lead additives in gasoline;
  • forwarding to Congress a plan to tighten safeguards on the seaborne transportation of oil; and
  • approving a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of oil spills.

Earth Day Event at Fresno City College

Back in 1970,  April 22 was chosen for Earth Day because it was between spring break and midterms, which would make it easier for students to participate.  So it is fitting that this year, Earth Day Fresno will occur on the campus of Fresno City College on Saturday, April 22 from 10 a.m. — 4 p.m.   This is a free family-friendly event sponsored by the Environmental Collaborative of Central California and the Division of Math, Science and Engineering at Fresno City College. 

There will be live entertainment and educational booths. Citizens’ Climate Lobby Fresno will be there with opportunities to tell your members of Congress to support legislation that lowers greenhouse gases in our atmosphere like promoting healthy forests, urban trees, electrification and carbon pricing.  A yard sale at CCLF’s  booth will raise funds to send area young people to attend a conference and meet with our members of Congress in DC.  You can visit with other Earth Day Fresno participants like The Central Valley Young Environmental Advocates and learn about the critical work of the Valley Air District.  There will also be vendors, food trucks, electric vehicle test drives, a bike clinic, kids activities and more. 

About the Author

Andrea De Zubiria works in healthcare and is the group leader for the Fresno Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.  Citizens’ Climate Lobby Fresno is a non-partisan, non-profit that trains citizen volunteers to help pass legislation that supports climate change solutions. She can be reached at

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