The event has its roots in a 1969 Santa Monica oil spill and the devastation left behind in its slick wake. The spill came at a time when the world was just beginning to realize the destruction of the Industrial Age, and environmental concerns still did not carry the same weight as an unwelcome war.
Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson thought if he could harness the energy of the anti-Vietnam movement sweeping across the country and direct it to environmental issues, it could make a real difference. (Ref. 1)
With an assist from other political leaders and student volunteers, April 22 in 1970 marked an event that crossed political and economic lines and drew 20 million people from coast to coast to protest the deterioration of the environment.
Soon after, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act were established, setting in motion a movement that went global.
In 1990, Earth Day attracted the attention of 200 million people in 141 countries, and has been growing ever since.
It tolls for thee
Forty-five years ago, Earth Day triggered serious questions about the health of the earth and its residents, although some intellectuals had recognized the connection centuries before.
The two are closely intertwined – even as we work to clean rivers and establish regulations for air emissions, we are still at risk of accelerated aging due to toxins that trigger free radical activity - an idea British poet John Donne (1572-1631) explored in his much-quoted Meditation XVII. (Ref. 2)
When he wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee,” he was speaking about the world as a single, powerful unit.
The metaphysical poem suggests that with every loss that comes – each death, each pristine waterway turned toxic – the world is changed somehow, because its landscape or population has shifted, impacting the whole like the shifting ground of an earthquake.
How can we not take environmental issues seriously?
Water, water everywhere … but not a drop to drink
One of the most pressing issues facing the global environment is clean water.
The world might be covered in water, but less than 1 percent is clean and accessible, experts say. (Ref. 3)
The rest is either salt water, glacial ice or polluted water that is unfit for human consumption. According to the digital magazine Take Part, some of the most contaminated waterways in the world include:
- Lake Karachay, Russia. This lake was named the most polluted spot on Earth according to a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute. It was used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste from 1951 to 1953.
- Matanza-Riachuelo River, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The banks of this river are littered with trash thanks to the 3.5 million people who live along the contaminated waterway.
- Citarum River, West Java, Indonesia. According to census surveys, 5 million people living along this river’s banks, which is flooded with untreated household and industrial waste.
- Buriganga River, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The surface of this river is covered with a green slime along with floating debris, thanks to chemical waste from industries as well as home and medical waste, sewage plastics, oil and other toxins.
- Ganges River, Allahabad, India. One of the holiest spots in the Hindu religion, the Ganges lures millions of people every 12 years to wash away their sins as part of a ritual called the Kumbh Mela.
- Yellow River, Lanzhou, China. Contaminants flow daily into the Yellow River in China, which once turned red due to an unknown toxin flowing from the sewer system. It has since contaminated all of China’s surface water.
- Yamuna River, New Delhi, India. Puffs of pollution cover the surface of this waterway, which takes in more than 500,000,000 gallons of untreated sewage each day.
- Chaohu Lake, Anhui Province, China. Chaohu Lake is covered with oily algae that has killed off much of the fish population. In order to improve water quality, China plans to link the lake to the Yangtze River, the longest river in that country.
- Jordan River, Israel. Considered a holy site, the Jordan River is as plagued with pollution as the Ganges in India. According to environmentalists, raw sewage and low water levels have nearly destroyed the river’s delicate ecosystem.
- Mississippi River, United States. The pollution is so bad that the area surrounding the mouth of the Mississippi River is known as a Dead Zone, and is so deprived of oxygen that living organisms in the river have died. (Ref. 4)
Ocean not immune
In 1997, Charles Moore was returning from the annual Transpacific Yacht Race, a sailboat race from Los Angeles to Hawaii, when he noticed bits of plastic debris floating alongside his sailboat. Altogether, the toothbrushes, plastic water bottles and floating nets made up a patch of garbage the size of Texas - virtual island of floating trash.
The island has become an unhealthy artificial reef for mussels, clams and other sea life, and according to tests, about 35 percent of the fish in the region have swallowed some toxic plastic, believing it to be food. (Ref. 5)
What Xtend-Life is doing
We have always been focused on the environment, especially because we are surrounded by some of the few clean ocean waters left in the world.
We’ve also created an innovative design for our Foaming Facial Cleanser bottle that ensures every bit of product is used, reducing waste.
Also, our latest product, the Xtend-Life Exfoliating Facial Scrub, uses finely-ground natural lava rock called Rhyolite as an exfoliator instead of microbeads (which are in fact plastic) and are so tiny they often slip through water treatment facilities, ending up contaminating our waterways and oceans.
And if you think a few plastic microbeads are no big deal, according to one study, there are enough plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes right now to rival the ‘trash islands’ in the world’s oceans, leading at least one U.S. state (Illinois) to ban the sale of cosmetics containing the tiny plastic microbeads, with several others currently looking to implement bans. (Ref. 6)