The Efficacy of Earth Day

Apr 22, 2016

First established in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22nd every year to celebrate and support the protection of the environment. Has it worked?

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, says Earth Day has evolved from raising awareness, to sparking action, to returning results.

"There's an urgency now," says Rosenberg. "People have seen some progress in 46 years, but we do need to see awareness and action year-round."

Whether sustained action can be achieved by marking one day is an open question. Rosenberg says Earth Day is an opportunity to impact future generations.

"I think for younger people, school-aged people Earth Day is important to take one day out. But the institutions students are part of, like schools and churches, need to do more than just rely on one day."

He points to the federal Clean Water Act as an example of positive environmental policy that has come about since the creation of Earth Day. But he says it would be premature to characterize this year's Iowa legislative session as a success. He says as a former lawmaker himself, he knows things can happen in the last week or even on the last day of a session, but right now there has been "minimal change," in environmental efforts.

Iowa lawmakers began the session with talk of substantial funding for water quality efforts in the state, spurred by a lawsuit filed by downstream urban areas paying to remove nitrates from drinking water supplies due to upstream runoff. Governor Branstad, the Republican controlled House and Democrat controlled Senate have failed to reach an agreement on a funding mechanism.

In this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Clare Roth talks with Rosenberg, and IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about prospects for agreement on water quality and a state budget. She also learns about the cover crop Tim Smith is using on 575 of his 800 acres. She checks in with IPR's Ben Kieffer to hear his firsthand observations of the refugee crisis and a decline in tourism in Europe. There are also discussions about Harriet Tubman's image gracing the 20-dollar bill, an Iowa State University study that links harsh parenting with childhood obesity and a tribute to Prince.