That first Earth Day I was 15, close to my daughter’s age now. I recall thinking: “Hell, everyday should be Earth Day!” Many said this to themselves with a kind of defiant anti-establishment relish in the assertion.

On Earth Day 1970, activists spoke about how Lake Erie was dead, that a new Ice Age was coming, and that too many power plants would cause our rivers to boil. Many people felt the exaggerations necessary, as the claims were mostly emotive rather than scientific. In retrospect, those first 20 years went by fast — and the fights over environmental progress were mostly fought in courts over regulation.

From 1990 to 2020, environmentalism grew up. It was professionalized, you might say. The T-Shirt became a pin-stripe, and environmentalism became mainstream. The social movement in these years also learned strategy. We saw corporate environmentalism emerge. Earth Day started becoming about people, planet and profit. Social response capitalism was born.

Bruce Piasecki, Author, President and Founder, AHC Group