Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day Memories--38 years





Participant in Earth Day, 1970.Photo: EPA History Office


Although I can’t say I remember all the intervening ones, I do remember the first Earth Day ever which I participated in. I was a junior at Stanford and it was 1970. It was a cool, Spring Day (March 21, the first day of spring) in San Francisco when I marched with a few friends and many thousand others to protest the deterioration of the environment. I didn’t remember this, but San Francisco’s protest was actually a month earlier than it was held elsewhere when 20 million participated in thousands of locations. At the time, I was definitely politically naive but totally caught up in the spirit of nonviolence and a desire to protect the environment. The day is etched in my memory in part due to a few photographs taken that day in San Francisco. I’m traveling as I write this, otherwise I would try to post a photo or two (perhaps I’ll add one later). PS--see post above for photos

Not long after that first earth day, came the US invasion of Cambodia, the Kent State shootings and the student strike of 1970. It was a memorable spring.
Here are a few interesting links I found when I goggled “Early Day history”:
http://earthday.envirolink.org/history.html
http://www.earthday.net/resources/history.aspx
And here’s an excerpt from the second one:

History of Earth Day
Earth Day -- April 22 -- each year marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Among other things, 1970 in the United States brought with it the Kent State shootings, the advent of fiber optics, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Apollo 13, the Beatles' last album, the death of Jimi Hendrix, the birth of Mariah Carey, and the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina -- an incident not acknowledged for 18 years.

At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. Environment was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.
Earth Day 1970 turned that all around.

On April 22, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

5 comments:

varenia said...

i found you through blogrush, and really, really enjoyed your post on the history of earth day, as well as your unique perspective. i wasn't born when earth day began, but have always felt a significant kinship with the day, and with our beautiful planet. when my daughter was born on earth day three years ago, it was then i started to take my family's impact on the earth much more seriously, and it's always nice to stumble upon like minded people. great blog! i'll be back!

DreamWoven said...

oh please do try to post a pic or two. we marched together on that day! i was also there.....and remember it fondly....(i lived in s.f. at the time and tho i was not a 'politico', i most definitely thought Earth Day was important.

RunzwithScissors said...

I, too, was there, in San Francisco. But while I was definitely political, the Vietnam War was the horror that I was more concerned about, and my memories of that first Earth Day are vague, blending in with other marches and rallies I participated in. I already composted and recycled in the Yankee tradition, owned a small car (it was SF, after all!), and was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Naively, when I later joined the Food Conspiracy, I thought our nation would soon follow the lead of our greening counterculture. However, the Warmongers In Charge only engaged in actions which further fueled the revolutionary fervor of the Students for Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, and later the Weathermen, and the SLA. Bullets, not Greens, was our nation's focus. While some environmental gains were made in those days, the later "Me Generation" turned their back on it all, and it's now up to their children and grandchildren to remind them that our planet is in danger.

HomeMadeOriginals said...

I too was very alarmed about the war at the time. However, I had taken a class at Stanford from Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and was pretty concerned about the environment.

The Mommy and Me Boutique said...

Yes, Interesting that we both chose the same poem, I came across that in a college class and loved it. It has stayed with me through all these years. Thanks for visiting my blog!