In 1972, the first Earth Day urged many communities to join collective action on the climate.
The very first demonstrations of Earth Day, which took place on April 22, 1970, brought 20 million American citizens into the streets - 10 percent of the U.S. total population.
Acknowledging the strength of this worldwide movement, President Richard Nixon and Congress decided to respond by establishing the Environmental Protection Agency and implementing a sequence of legislation such as the:
Clean Air Act, the federal law that "regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources"
Clean Water Act, the federal law that "regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation's surface waters, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and coastal areas"
However the effects of Earth Day spread well beyond the United states. A team of U.S. specialists State Department agreed that environmental problems didn't seem to stop at the country's frontiers, and defined frameworks for coping with them as well with other countries.
A fundamental issue for academics pursuing global governance is the difficulty of bringing governments to work together.
Without the first Earth Day, collective action regarding concerns such as trafficking of threatened species, ozone layer degradation, and global warming would, in my opinion, have taken far further – or maybe never occurred at all.
Warnings all Around the Globe
In 1970 governments worldwide confronted the problems of interprovincial emissions. Ammonia and nitrogen nanoparticles released from coal-fired power plants in the United Kingdom, for example, carried hundreds of kilometers on northern winds, and returned to earth as acid rain, ice, and snow in northern Europe. In Germany and Sweden, this cycle was destroying rivers and grasslands.
Understanding that approaches would only be achievable by common action, countries hosted
from 5-16 June 1972 in Stockholm the first global conference on the environment.
Members from 113 governments witnessed and endorsed the Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, which upholds that humans have a civil right to an atmosphere that enables a life of dignity and wellbeing.
But developing nations were suspicious and interpreted environmental policies as part of a political narrative promoted by advanced economies that would avoid industrialization.
"I do not think we are prepared to become new Robinson Crusoes," - said Brazilian delegate Bernardo de Azevedo Brito in reply to demands from developed countries for pollution control.
United Nations Agency
Industrialized countries managed to set up and provide initial funding for what is arguably the world's biggest global climate institution: the United Nations Environment Programme, primarily because of U.S. leadership.
Now the agency strives to push trade and investment on matters such as pollution control, conservation of biodiversity and climate change.
Earth Day Today
Currently, as the perils of climate change are becoming more and more noticeable each day, the struggle for a sustainable future persists with rising urgency.
"As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Disillusioned by the low level of ambition following the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and frustrated with international environmental lethargy, citizens of the world are rising up to demand far greater action for our planet and its people." - says the EarthDay Organization
Sadly, the United States has, in my point of view, given up its long-standing position as a leader on ecological issues. President Trump has sought what he calls a "America First" foreign policy which includes withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and a cease to World Health Organization funding.
Global issues require, for instance, regional partnership and leadership.
Developing countries are more hesitant to undertake to intergovernmental treaties if the guidelines are revoked or violated by the rich and dominant ones.
And the coronavirus pandemic has brought about the failure of bare nations to mobilize, arrange, and bankroll a concerted global response.
Every other nation has yet been able to fill the void left by the USA.