Earth Day Massachusetts on Saturday (April 22) provides a timely opportunity to reflect on how the health of our environment has evolved since 1970.


Thanks in part to the groundwork of Earth Day’s original organizers, Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes, environmental issues became a prominent topic in American households and at the voting booth in the 1970’s. Politicians on both sides of the aisle reached a consensus that our environment was worth protecting (remember when politicians were able to reach consensus?).


Shortly after the first Earth Day, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. National nonprofits, including Keep America Beautiful, saturated the broadcast airwaves with public service announcements, such as this famous video:


Since the early 1970’s, the U.S. has reduced air pollution and water pollution significantly. If you’re too young to remember the smog that plagued major U.S. cities, just watch an old movie or TV show from the 1960’s or 1970’s and you’ll get an appreciation for how much progress we have made in reducing smog.


The same holds true for protecting our waterways. The dumping of PCBs and other harmful chemicals into waterways has been curtailed dramatically. Urban rivers like the Charles are now swimmable or close-to-swimmable again. Barges no longer routinely dump household garbage into our oceans. Do problems still exist? For sure, but we have made meaningful progress.


When it comes to litter and plastic pollution, however, things have gotten worse in many respects. Back in the 1970s and earlier, most beverages were served in glass or aluminum containers. Plastic bags and plastic packaging did not exist. While litter was a problem, at least many of the materials were biodegradable.


Today, the ubiquity of plastic in all phases of our lives has created a tsunami of plastic pollution. Anyone who attended our recent screening of A Plastic Ocean in Foxboro will surely agree. All you need to do is take a quick look at virtually any roadside, sidewalk, park, or beach in Massachusetts today. The severity of our litter and plastic pollution problem is impossible to miss.


So where do we go from here? If the Trump Administration gets its way, the EPA’s budget will be slashed by more than 30% and thousands of environmental professionals will join the ranks of the unemployed. We’re not clear as to what’s so “great” about that.


Thankfully, thousands of volunteers are taking action in Massachusetts to clean up litter and plastic pollution. This spring, more than 100 communities are participating in the 2017 Great Massachusetts Litter Cleanup.


Other concerned citizens are attacking the plastic pollution problem at its source by advocating for sensible limits on plastic bags, beverage containers, and polystyrene. In fact, 46 Massachusetts communities have now passed plastic pollution ordinances.


To maintain our momentum toward the goal of a cleaner, greener Massachusetts, we are asking for your financial support. With your help, we can create an environment where every community is clean, green, and litter-free. That’s good for our environment, our economy, and most importantly, the people of Massachusetts.


Please donate to Keep Massachusetts Beautiful on Earth Day. Forward this email and ask your friends and family to help out too. Together, we can Keep Massachusetts Beautiful.


If you are looking for other ways to further the rich and important history of Earth Day in Massachusetts this year, consider joining a Great Massachusetts Litter Cleanup event near you. Please visit our events page to find a litter cleanup event or contact us for more information.


Until things change in Washington, it’s going to be up to states and nonprofit organizations to pick up the slack and continue the fight to protect Mother Earth for our children and future generations. If you agree, please take 1 minute this week to urge your State Representative to fund environmental protection in Massachusetts.