Happy Earth Day To You

I’m old enough to remember the very first Earth Day. In fact, it happened the same year as my high school graduation. 1970 was a time of cultural unrest and many of us young people were pushing the envelopes in many categories. There was growing concern about the degradation of the environment, especially air and water pollution.

Meanwhile, the late Senator Gaylord Nelson took a page from the student peace and ecology movements and went on to organize an event that celebrates planet Earth and the environment. The very first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970. Millions of Americans from every demographic rallied in favor of a healthy, sustainable environment. Demonstrators included Democrats, Republicans, the rich, the poor, farmers, labor leaders, students, and other concerned citizens.

Senator Nelson came from a place of progressive heritage and history. He was Governor of Wisconsin, when that state was still known as a refuge of progressive thinking and values. He was known as the “Conservation Governor”. Following his election to the U.S. Senate in 1962. Nelson realized that the government lacked any meaningful environmental agendas.

Using his previous experience as Governor, Senator Nelson networked private and political leaders to bring awareness of the need for environmental protection to the forefront. His idea for some sort of national day for the environment began to coalesce in 1969. Nelson’s idea was greeted with overwhelming national support from the public, to politicians, and the national media. Enthusiastic citizens flooded the Senator’s office with supportive letters.

Although Nelson came up with the initial idea for the celebration, he refused to form a top-down official organization to run the event. He wanted regular Americans to plan and carry out events that addressed the ecological problems that were peculiar to their own vicinities. In effect, Nelson wanted Earth Day to plan itself.

The public gladly took up the challenge and gathered together on April 22, 1970 to shake off indifference to the environmental crisis and demand action from Washington and from one another.

That was the first day of what became known as the “Environmental Decade” of legislative reforms. Many of the important legislated laws included: The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, various Clean Water Acts, The Clean Air Act, The National Scenic Trails Acts, along with several state and local laws and ordinances across the nation.

After Nelson’s departure from the Senate, he maintained national status as a leader of environmental concerns. In 1995, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Nelson was Counselor of the Wilderness Society until his death in 2005.

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Senator Gaylord Nelson. “We must recognize that we’re all part of a web of life around the world. Anytime you extinguish a species, the consequences are serious.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Environment, History, Politics, Youth and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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