SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The creation of Earth Day dates back to more than 50 years ago, when Dennis Hayes and Wisconsin Senator Gaylor Nelson started a movement to speak out against the ravages of industrialization. Climate change is the top issue for many environmental activists, and Earth Day remains a focal point to bring awareness to the many issues we face today.

On April 22, 1970, about 20 million people across the country joined in celebrating the very first Earth Day. Sen. Nelson called for students to fight for environmental protection with the same amount of enthusiasm and zeal that they had exercised in opposing the Vietnam War in the 1960s, hoping to gain the attention of lawmakers to do more to protect the environment. And it worked.

Later that year, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed after the public demanded cleaner air, water, and land. Earth Day started the United States on the road to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and large environmental movements.

The very first Earth Day was celebrated by Americans of all ages in local towns and communities. Musicians performed songs about caring for the environment, and celebrities spoke on issues like the importance of recycling. Since then, Earth Day has evolved to being celebrated on a worldwide scale. In 1990, Earth Day celebrations extended to 200 million people in 141 countries.

Raquel Juarez with Fridays for Future joins ABC4’s Nick McGurk for an IN FOCUS discussion about the actions she took in high school to bring awareness to climate change, what the reaction is to her weekly strikes, how she’s advancing the cause after graduation, the significance of Earth Day to her, and what she says everyone can do to help slow climate change.

Kim Shelley, the newly appointed director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, talks about the current state of Utah’s air quality conditions, what her priorities and goals are in her new position, what’s on her docket for enforcing laws to keep our environment safe, the recently-purchased electric school buses, and where she sees her agency heading in the future.

Carmen Valdez, the grassroots organizer for HEAL Utah, also discusses the state’s current air quality conditions, what Earth Day means to her, how they make the public care more than once a year during their annual event, where she sees her organization on the timeline of policy and regulation reform for activism, the impact the pandemic had on our air quality, and what people can do everyday to improve our climate

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Juarez, Shelley, and Valdez, click on the video at the top of the article.

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Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.