Co-authored with Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Jr, Hip Hop Caucus

On April 22, 1970, the world recognized the first Earth Day. That same year, Hip Hop was born in the streets of New York City. For four decades, Earth Day and Hip Hop have been seen by many as rebellious; two voices speaking out against injustice, two commitments to principles that make some uncomfortable or angry.

For us, Earth Day 2010 marks a moment to reflect on 40 years of progress, to continue our commitment to addressing problems that have been ignored for too long, and to celebrate the spirit of doing what’s right, not what’s easy.

Today the Hip Hop Caucus and Green For All announce Earth Day on Every Block. This effort is part of Green The Block‘s monthly calls to action, which engage people across the country in building healthier, stronger, more sustainable communities through local educational events. In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and Hip Hop, Earth Day on Every Block will bring core principles for smarter living to every block in America.

This sounds harder than it is. Making your block greener means doing simple, thoughtful things – for example, turning off electronics that aren’t being used, using less water, eating better, recycling whenever possible. These small changes improve our own lives immediately, and have a massive impact on the world when added together. Join us now: Take the Earth Day on Every Block Pledge.

This Earth Day, we’ll demonstrate the power that we all have to make a difference. Young people and communities of color can and will be leading the effort to improve our communities – because it is our neighborhoods that are impacted most, because we’re the ones who are inheriting the planet. And this pledge won’t just have an impact on your block – it’s going to have an impact on our leaders in Washington.

Think about that. You can change your own life, in easy but meaningful ways, which can spill over to the rest of your block. If you recycle, you neighbors and parents will be more thoughtful about doing so. If you buy healthier foods, it gives local stores more incentive to stock them. If you and your neighbors, family and friends tell your elected officials that these things are important to you, it can tip the balance and make the House and Senate pass policies for a sustainable America and opportunity in our neighborhoods. All this is possible if you stand up for what you believe in.

It took over a century for us to create the environmental crisis. The economic crisis was a decade in the making. These massive challenges didn’t emerge overnight, and solutions are also unlikely to come quickly. But by taking personal action, changing our own lives, and working for change in our neighborhoods, our collective action can change the world.

Make a statement about who you are and what you believe in. Continue making your voice heard. Take the pledge, and join our cause.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.