Earth Day Origins
The first Earth Day was radical, effective, and inspired. In 1970, the premier of the first Earth Day, Americans were guzzling gas and spewing pollution -- all in the name of progress. Free love, anti-war protests, civil rights legislation -- the air was super charged with progressive political change, but the actual quality of the air was barely mentioned. But that wouldn't last for long...
Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, had seen first-hand the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. This, coupled with Rachel Carson's publication of "Silent Spring," convinced the Senator that something had to be done to put the environment front and center on the national agenda.
Protecting the Air and Water
Taking cues from the student anti-war movement, Gaylord infused the energy of the times with a call to protect the air and water. He announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the media, and through a highly effective bi-partisan effort, on April 20, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Additionally. thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment.
That first Earth Day helped inspire a future wave of environmental actions including passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the highest honor given to civilians in the United States -- for his role as Earth Day founder.
Earth Day 2015: Action Required
The environmental challenges in 1970 were serious, but climate change has raised the stakes for modern society. Large scale mobilization is necessary if we are to tackle climate change. Much like what Senator Nelson experienced, a concerted, inspired , radical efffort is necessary to take on climate change.
In the spirit of Senator Nelson and his vision for action that makes a difference, let's honor Earth Day 2015 - and commit to taking action.