Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970. It was the brainchild of a liberal senator in Wisconsin who went on to become the governor. Gaylord Nelson was genuinely concerned about how human harm was destroying the planet. Along the way, the day devoted to saving our only habitat became a day of meaningless slogans and actions that make the general public and the guilty polluters feel good.

Earth Day was so successful back then that a bipartisan Congress passed several milestone bills such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Environmental Education Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Tens of millions of Americans across the country were motivated to take part in activities to save the planet. Soon came the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an agency whose name said it all. The agency and subsequent laws were what the country needed to protect our future.

Insidious factors started to erode the potency of the movement, Earth Day and the laws that came with it. It wasn’t because Mother Earth was not in crisis; she most definitely is. Money and power seem to be winning.

In the decade after the first Earth Day, the enemies of the environment began co-opting Earth Day by becoming financial sponsors. Oil, gas, chemical and nuclear energy corporations put themselves in the driver’s seat. These greedy and corrupt global capitalists have marred the true meaning of Earth Day, sparking criticisms and protests of the hallowed day. It’s hard to hold companies accountable who are funding your cause. It wasn’t long before pointed demands became catchy marketing banners.

We thought George W. Bush was the most blatant anti-environmental president until donald trump darkened the White House door. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that nearly half of the trump administration political appointees to the EPA were tied to chemical and energy industries supposedly regulated by the agency. EPA, once a trusted enforcer and protector of the environment, is infected by powerful lobbyists.

This country has legislators at the local, state and federal levels who could care less about people and the planet and more about profits. Trying to get their attention about living things has become a challenge. There are lawmakers and policymakers who don’t believe in science, making it harder to pass laws that slow down the destruction of our ecosystem by corporations.

The influence of Earth Day is waning even as the U.S. rejoins the Paris Accords. Even as we have more evidence about the harm being done. Even as we identify ways to slow down the destruction.

I stopped participating in Earth Day years ago. It seemed more relevant to join protests in front of Monsanto’s International Headquarters. Monsanto is the maker of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), designed to withstand the onslaught of their death-defying products like Roundup weed killer.

There are some who think it’s time to reclaim Earth Day from the big-green organizations and well as the powerful polluters who finance them. Do some serious house-cleaning. Others think it’s time to de-legitimize Earth Day by shutting it down and starting anew.

Regardless, this should be the year to take a serious look at a new strategy for environmental protections. It’s time to prioritize science, human life and Mother Earth. Polluted air, food insecurity, deforestation, biodiversity loss, global warming, genetic engineering, fracking and other symptoms of an ecological crisis are smacking us in the face—begging for our attention and resolution. It’s time to make concern about the planet more than a one-day focus. It’s time to build a powerful movement to sustain the place where we live.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.com. Contact Ms. Rogers and BC.

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