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Harlot 
Posted: 22-Apr-2009, 09:56 AM
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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.

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LibraryJim 
Posted: 22-Apr-2009, 06:32 PM
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More on the first Earth Day Celebration (I added some line breaks for easier reading):

QUOTE


Earth Day, Then and Now


Ronald Bailey

The first Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin. The moment was obviously ripe. Nelson had proposed a national "teach-in" on the environment in September 1969 and only eight months later, everything was in place for the single largest national demonstration in American history. Dramatic events such as the Cuyahoga River bursting into flame in 1969, the blowout of an oil well off Santa Barbara, and the "death" of Lake Erie due to pollution all fed Americans' concerns. The sorry state of America's environment hit home for me when, as a 16-year-old high school student from the mountains of Virginia, I visited George Washington's home, Mt. Vernon, on a marching band trip. Bobbing in the nearby Potomac was a sign warning visitors not to come in contact with the water.

Earth Day 1970 provoked a torrent of apocalyptic predictions. "We have about five more years at the outside to do something," ecologist Kenneth Watt declared to a Swarthmore College audience on April 19, 1970.

Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that "civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."

"We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation," wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.

The day after Earth Day, even the staid New York Times editorial page warned, "Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."

Very Apocalypse Now.

Three decades later, of course, the world hasn't come to an end; if anything, the planet's ecological future has never looked so promising. With half a billion people suiting up around the globe for Earth Day 2000, now is a good time to look back on the predictions made at the first Earth Day and see how they've held up and what we can learn from them. The short answer: The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong.

More important, many contemporary environmental alarmists are similarly mistaken when they continue to insist that the Earth's future remains an eco-tragedy that has already entered its final act. Such doomsters not only fail to appreciate the huge environmental gains made over the past 30 years, they ignore the simple fact that increased wealth, population, and technological innovation don't degrade and destroy the environment.

Rather, such developments preserve and enrich the environment. If it is impossible to predict fully the future, it is nonetheless possible to learn from the past. And the best lesson we can learn from revisiting the discourse surrounding the very first Earth Day is that passionate concern, however sincere, is no substitute for rational analysis.
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Rindy 
Posted: 22-Apr-2009, 09:34 PM
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Happy Earth Day everyone. thumbs_up.gif

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Harlot 
Posted: 22-Apr-2009, 09:50 PM
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PLANT A TREE!!!!!!

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LibraryJim 
Posted: 22-Apr-2009, 10:03 PM
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QUOTE (Harlot @ 22-Apr-2009, 09:50 PM)
PLANT A TREE!!!!!!

Harlot

Fruit trees are nice. They not only LOOK good, have 'flowers' and convert CO2 into oxygen, but give you something good to eat, too!

We have a pear tree in our front yard. The neighborhood children are invited to have the first pick each year.
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