Time is a flat circle happy Earth Day.
June 2019 marked a unique five-decade anniversary as we remembered the last fire that burned on the Cuyahoga River, sparking national attention and an environmental movement.
Out of the crooked river’s haze emerged the first Earth Day.
Last year and early 2021 have had a haze of their own that make celebrations odd and the passage of time harder to process. But this Earth Day is no less significant than the crooked river’s comeback. We are proud of the progress and we remain committed to the cause.
There is no disconnecting the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire and the 1970 Earth Day. As awareness was heightened and more than 200 million Americans demonstrated in Earth Day events across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency was established that year. And while we the regional utility to manage clean water in Cleveland were not created until 1972, the spotlight continued to shine on our response to a river on the brink of collapse.
With each passing Earth Day celebration, the Cuyahoga River’s health was improving. Pollution prevention programs limited and ended industrial discharges that had led to the river’s demise. System improvements and construction were reducing and eliminating overflowing sewer outfalls that had been relieving themselves into the Cuyahoga for years. The comeback continues today and there is still more work to do.
In this COVID-19 era, time blurs. The passage of time has a different feel, and some may say the same about the state of our river and Lake Erie today as Earth Day and the EPA now enter their sixth decades: a combination of success stories and lingering threats, a desire to celebrate but new and unknown risks are emerging.
We didn’t “celebrate” the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire; we celebrated the end of river fires. When every day should be Earth Day, we don’t limit our awareness to April 22; we mark it as another day to recommit to the clean-water cause. With each achievement, we prepare for new challenges.
So Happy Earth Day. Or if you’re struggling with processing time, we say happy today, whenever that is.
Our mission is the same either way.