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anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?

Posted by roots_ee 
anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 10, 2006 10:08PM
How the First Earth Day Came About
By Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked.

Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political "limelight" once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.

I continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences in some twenty-five states. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.

After President Kennedy's tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called "teach-ins," had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me - why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air - and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental problems...is being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."

It was obvious that we were headed for a spectacular success on Earth Day. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my U.S. Senate office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquiries, etc. In mid-January, three months before Earth Day, John Gardner, Founder of Common Cause, provided temporary space for a Washington, D.C. headquarters. I staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes as coordinator of activities.

Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.

one love one peace
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 12:25PM
I think it is described well in Genesis ;-)

Post Edited (05-11-06 05:26)

"love shines brighter than the morning sun"
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 01:00PM
Earth Day was founded in the United States in 1970 during a turbulent era of social protest. Students led the fight for greater social freedoms, civil rights, and against the unpopular Vietnam War. Most young people of the era were politically aware and many were politically active. > MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED

In 1970 pollution problems plagued America. The U.S. did not yet have strong federal laws to protect its air, water, and lands. Rivers actually caught fire from industrial pollution. Smog choked some U.S. cities so badly it could be hard to breathe and difficult to see. Species risked extinction from overuse of dangerous manmade pesticides such as DDT.

Many people were sounding the drumbeat for change, calling attention to the threats to nature. Messages that connected were Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, David Brower's creation of elegant coffee table nature books (while he was executive director of the Sierra Club in the 60's), and popular public service announcements featuring Iron Eyes Cody (portraying a Native American with a tear streaming down his cheek as he looked upon scenes of pollution). They set the stage for student activism to tap into growing popular concern about environment. It was a case of politics informing art informing politics. Earth Day was an idea who's time had come.

Two men are widely acknowledged as the co-founders. Gaylord Nelson, the former Governor and Senator from Wisconson, was a key establishment figure (to use the term of the time) who championed the cause of protecting nature on the national political stage...and Denis Hayes, then a prominent student leader, are the acknowledged co-founders of Earth Day. Another man, John McConnell, proposed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors the name Earth Day in early October 1969.

The date Earth Day is observed, April 22, was chosen for practical reasons - it did not conflict with students' finals nor their Spring Break, and the weather would generally be pleasant for outdoor activities in most of North America. see Move Date to Summer Solstice article within the Newsletter.

Earth Day was an immediate public, media and political success. It served as a lens to focus attention on human activity which harms nature, and the "awareness-raising" process was begun. Extremely important laws were passed in the years immediately following the first Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, protection for wildlife in the form of the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act, later the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as protection for wild lands.

Today, however, some thirty+ years later, Earth Day does not have the power it once did to rally the public to action and to impact policy-makers.

The media today relegates coverage of Earth Day to the lifestyle sections of its coverage, and Earth Day's focus over time seems to have shifted to an entertainment focus. If you ask the average person what's going on for Earth Day, they are likely to answer, "Who's playing?"

The concert in Central Park for Earth Day's 20th anniversay in 1990 must stand as Earth Day's low point. The people who turned out to hear the free music left millions of tons of trash on the ground. In 2000, Denis Hayes tapped then hot actor Leonardo DiCaprio as the spokesperson for Earth Day's 30th anniversary, despite his clear attempt to greenwash his public image after being the subject of clever Thai environment protesters during his filming of The Beach the previous year. A flap with then SUV-driving DiCaprio over an interview he did with president Clinton for ABC compounded the perception that Earth Day had once again sold out.

David Brower Statement on Earth Day Energy Fast - April, 2000

"Many environmentalists are hailing the arrival of new efficient and "green" energy sources, while forgetting that our greatest untapped source of energy is still the energy we can conserve by not using so much of it. Earth Day Energy Fast is the kind of idea that we need right now to put "conservation" back in the Conservation Movement. To all those who are concerned about climate change, air pollution, species extinction and the other costs to the Earth of making energy, it's time to take action. Get more than concerned this Earth Day and give the Earth a break it can feel by going on an Earth Day Energy Fast. Let the great ideas at www.earthdayenergyfast.org help you find out how many barrels of oil or equivalent you have leaking out of your house, then see what you can do stop the spill."

David Brower was considered the dean of America's modern environmental movement, having led the Sierra Club, founded Earth Island Istitute, and was a tireless worker on behalf of seeking protections for nature. Mr. Brower passed away in 2000.

WorldWatch Institute
On the first Earth Day in 1970, experts warned that the planet's natural systems were being dangerously destabilized by human industry. Here is how we have fared on some key fronts since then:
As our growing population increased its burning of coal and oil to produce power, the carbon locked in millions of years worth of ancient plant growth was released into the air, laying a heat-retaining blanket of carbon dioxide over the planet. Earth's temperature increased significantly. Climate scientists had predicted that this increase would disrupt weather. And, indeed, annual damages from weather disasters have increased over 40-fold.
Solution: A faster shift to nonpolluting, renewable solar, wind, and hydrogen energy systems.
Our consumption of chemicals has exploded, with about three new synthetic chemicals introduced each day. Almost nothing is known about the long-term health and environmental effects of new synthetics, so we have been ambushed again and again by belated discoveries. One of the most ominous chronic effects: as pesticide use has increased, so has the evolution of pesticide-resistant pests.
Solution: A large-scale shift to organic farming; a shift away from excessive consumption of synthetic chemical products; and application of the precautionary principle to the chemical industry.
Population has increased by as much in the past 30 years as it did in the 100,000 years prior to the mid-20th century. And as the number of people has grown, the amount of land used by each person-either directly or through economic demand-has also expanded. As a result of this double expansion, incursions of human activity into agricultural and forested land have accelerated.
Solution: Stabilize population, especially by improving the economic and social status of women; design cities in ways that reduce distances traveled between home, work, shopping, and school; and in urban transist systems, shift emphasis from cars to public transportation, bicycling, and walking.
The global economy has more than doubled in the past 30 years, putting pressure on most countries to increase export income. Many have tried to increase revenues by selling more ocean fish-for which there is growing demand, since the increase in crop yields no longer keeps pace with population growth. Result: overfishing is decimating one stock after another, and the catch is getting thinner and thinner.
Solution: Stabilize population growth; stop subsidizing fishing fleets; and end the practice of feeding ocean-caught fish to farmed fish (it takes five pounds of ocean catch to produce one pound of farmed fish), which is still a very profitable and common practice.


Earth Day Energy Fast came into being when a grassroots political activist decided in 1991 that people need to take action on Earth Day - actions which have direct and immediate benefits to nature.

Frustrated with entertainment-oriented free concerts and the overall commercialization of Earth Day, Energy Fast was founded to bring unity of focus, unity of goals, and unity of action to each Earth Day observance. The Earth Day Energy Fast seeks to get real people doing real work which benefits nature in a real way - with measurable results, and move media coverage of Earth Day from the lifestyle section back to hard news.

After population pressures, human energy use is the second link in the chain of environmental destruction. All human beings need energy: for warmth, for cooking food; and in the industrialized world for our manufactured goods, transportation and communication. Obviously the locating, refining, production and distribution of consumer-ready power itself requires energy.

According to the experts, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by almost one third from 280 parts per million (ppm) to 370ppm since the beginning of the industrial revolution some 150 years ago - primarily as a result of burning fossil fuels. Today more than 85% of the world's commercial energy needs are supplied by fossil fuels. The projection is that carbon dioxide emissions will account for about two thirds of potential global warming. The Earth's climate is already likely to experience several decades of repercussions for past pollution output. [Statistics this paragraph from Scientific American, February, 2000/Capturing Greenhouse Gases by Howard Herzog, Baldur Eliasson, and Olav Kaarstad]

Despite the growing call for renewable energy sources - such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, it is fossil fuels - because they are cheap, plentiful, and the extraction, refining and delivery methods and systems are already in place - which will be powering our industry, cars, and homes well into the 21st century. Thus it is up to the people to compel their governments to dramatically and quickly change the energy focus of their respective country's energy programs to those that strongly favor efficiency and renewables. Millions of people taking part in the Earth Day Energy Fast each Earth Day, who apply energy-saving techniques throughout the year, can impact policy decisions made by their governments.

Earth Day Energy Fast was originally called Energy Fast until its founder discovered that Earth Day is in the public domain, there for all to use, and the name Earth Day is not subject to any proprietary claims. A letter-writing campaign began the Energy Fast, seeking to get Earth Day and environmental organizations interested in the proposal to evolve Earth Day into a day of real action. Soon the national Earth Day group Earth Day USA took an interest in the Energy Fast, and its then-president and management team sought to facilitate the development of Energy Fast as a national program. At a 1993 Earth Day organizers' conference in Sausalito the Energy Fast was introduced to those in attendance during the "pitch your program" part of the conference. An outside political consultant hired by the then-management team of Earth Day USA, some among the management team, as well as others in attendance thought Energy Fast worthy of support. Energy Fast was considered for development as a national campaign for Earth Day's 25th anniversary in 1995.

Unfortunately, an ugly internal leadership dispute ensued and little was accomplished by national Earth Day leaders in 1994 and 1995 in the way of cohesive national campaigns. The founder of Energy Fast changed the name of the campaign to Earth Day Energy Fast and researched non-profit status, fundraising, pass-throughs, and alliances with other organizations before deciding that Earth Day Energy Fast should adhere to the grassroots principles of Earth Day's founding and keep it simple. The nonprofit sector has also had the effect of killing the politics of many campaigns as funding sources usually abhor controversy and the massive amount of time and energy which must go into asking for money means that much less time and effort for doing real work.

Earth Day Energy Fast raises no money nor sells any product and seeks to work with any and all persons, groups, and organizations who wish to reduce energy waste and lessen the destruction of nature.

Earth Day will never manifest the power to inspire people to action to protect nature if it cannot define itself to the public. The average person needs to know when Earth Day occurs, what they are supposed to do on Earth Day, and why they should care. Only through campaigns which ask people to actually do something which benefits nature on each Earth Day can a lasting impression be formed in the public mind about the date's importance. Earth Day and environmental organizers need to create campaigns which year in and year out reinforce behaviors - such as reducing energy waste and improving energy-efficiency.

In time people all over the world should come to know that on Earth Day (whatever the date the observance is celebrated) all people are asked to go without man-made power and do their part not to cause natural resource destruction for energy production nor pollute through using man-made power at least this one day a year. The focus will then shift to nature and the local environment if people are not distracted with television, radio, the internet, or cocooned inside automobiles, using cell phones, microwaving prefab meals, and instead are enjoying the outdoors.

one love one peace
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 01:02PM
he he...
not many folks seem to read the bible you think? :-(

one love one peace
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 01:26PM
or maybe they stop after Genesis? lol..

"love shines brighter than the morning sun"
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 02:25PM
The problem with the Genesis story, as I see it, is it puts humans in a position of authority over the earth, when in reality we have no such authority.

Silly humans...when are we gonna learn that we are a part of, and not over and above, creation?


Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 04:32PM
I have to disagree Jeff, it puts us in a position of stewardship over the earth, but G-d is the ultimate authority on how well we do our collective job of tending to the needs of the planet vis-a-vis our own desires...which at this point is not very well...

Post Edited (05-11-06 12:33)
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 07:54PM
i have a habit when reading a book of

*reading the introduction
*then the table of contents,
*then starting with the last chapter,

one love one peace
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 08:08PM
Roots-ee, that might just make you want to pass up reading the Bible, starting with Revelations first... Heavy reading there....but all in all I tend to do about the same with most books...
Re: anyone remember? How the First Earth Day Came About?
May 11, 2006 08:17PM

all's well that ends well...

one love one peace
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