“. . . on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was held, one of the most
remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. . . ”
-American Heritage Magazine, October 1993
What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? I always thought this was a fairly new idea, late 80’s or 90’s maybe. I had no clue that the Earth Day concept dates back to the 60’s. It was also intriguing to learn that this concept was not the brain child of an environmental group or someone with a financial agenda. Actually the idea for Earth Day evolved over seven years starting in 1962 by the late Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson . Nelson was bothered by the fact of that the political community considered the state of our environment basically a “non issue”. So, in 1962, in order to get the environment back in the political “limelight”, his idea was to persuade President Kennedy to go on a national conservation tour. The 5 day 11 state conservation tour was kicked off in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issues onto the national political agenda; however, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.
Senator Nelson continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences across the country. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to Nelson 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 an idea occurred- why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what is happening to our environment.
At a conference in Seattle it was announced that in the spring of 1970 a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment would happen and everyone was invited to participate. The buzz of the event was electric from coast to coast, 5 months before Earth Day the New York Times ran a lengthy article promoting the event.
Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. Nelson had neither the time nor the 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!
Earth Day is a great start, but if we really want to start making a difference it will take each of us to make an Earth Life. Small changes to your lifestyle can create huge results, natural household cleaners, organic clothing, bedding, and agave based sponges and scrubbies add to a renewable restorable world for all of us. Respect your mother (Earth) and do whatever you can to keep her around for generations to come.