Local News

'We need it a lot more:' Durham celebrates significance of Earth Day

Posted April 22, 2018 6:45 p.m. EDT

— People in the Triangle and around the world on Sunday were celebrating Earth Day, 48 years after the first observance of the holiday.

In the summer of 1969, oily debris in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga burst into flames, searing the scourge of pollution into the public consciousness.

“I remember Duke students beginning to talk about the environment in a new way,” Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said.

Schewel thinks back to that first Earth Day, when his classmates rallied on the Duke University quad 10 months after the Cuyahoga combusted.

“Well, I think we need it a lot more than we did when it began in 1970,” he said.

Schewel says a warming world lends urgency to the Earth Day cause.

“You and I are going to be fine, but our children and grandchildren, they won’t be unless we can change the way in which we interact with our environment,’ he said.

A lot has changed since that first Earth Day, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, tobacco fields in North Carolina are gleaming with solar panels and green energy and electric cars are common topics of discussion.

“I think for people to be able to plug in their cars is the next thing that’s going to be able to bring this along and make it very common and pedestrian,” Joyce Kuhn said.

Making green living common begins with the next generation, including 9-year-old Maya Finlay and Rahfel Lucas, who were celebrating the wonder of nature in Durham Central Park.

“You have fresh air and it’s fun to play and you have very wide open space,” Finlay said.