The fact that Earth Day has morphed into today’s Global Climate Strike illustrates how acute climate change has become. Millions of students and others have organized events to protest climate change and to ask governments in nearly every nation of the world to act.

In 1970, Earth Day’s founder, Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, sought to spotlight environmental issues after a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969 killed thousands of sea birds, fish and mammals. He started the day as a teach-in to demonstrate human impacts on the planet and why laws to protect clean air and water were needed.

The day increased awareness, but didn’t stop the industrial juggernaut that raised the standard of living in developed countries but accelerated the destruction of Earth’s life-support systems.

A wise person once said that one of life’s mysteries is that people can see others die all around them and still think it won’t happen to them. This could be said about the effects of climate change.

The American West is seeing forests die,

rivers shrivel, species disappear and “smoke”

become a season. Coastal communities have seen fish populations shrink and coral reefs die.

Every nation is experiencing severe climate-driven weather. Yet, as individuals and nations, we continue to behave as though it will not affect us.

At this point, only major government initiatives and regulations that limit the use of fossil fuels—laws we place upon ourselves for the common good—can stop the forces that inexorably will make most of the planet uninhabitable.

The time for teaching is over. It is time to end denial and push pro-planet programs and policies into high gear before it’s too late.

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