Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Earth Day

I realize it's nowhere near the first Earth Day...but everyday should be Earth day!
Well one thing my language professor said is true, if you research something you like, it doesn't feel like work. These past two weeks our class has been working on writing our research papers on an event that happened in the 1960s and 1970s. She gave us a list of events to choose from, so as I was scanning the list I was getting a little worried until I got to the last item on the list...First Earth Day. Bingo!
Being the proud environmentalist that I am, I'm ashamed to say...I know absolutely nothing about the first Earth Day. So I was excited to say the least to find out about it and get graded on it!
Let me briefly sum up what happened. A Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, had been working for several years to get environmental issues recognized on the political agenda, however much more pressing matters such as the Vietnam War were all that politicians cared about. However the people at the time were largely against the war, practically every other day the headline in the newspaper was about a college campus that had an anti-war teach-in. That is where Nelson got the idea for a nationwide environmental teach-in event. After a lot of press, some donations, and spreading the word, Earth Day was born! April 22, 1970. The date was chosen to fit in with school schedules, it had nothing to do with it being Vladimir Lenin's birthday contrary to rumor.
So what did they do on the first Earth Day? Crazy things. They beat cars with sledge hammers, buried cars, blocked cars from coming onto campuses, rode horses on the freeway. They dumped oil in front of fountains at major oil companies. They wore gas masks. They rallied, marched, protested, signed petitions, wrote letters to politicians. They did some not so crazy things too, they planted trees, picked up trash, cleaned rivers, and recycled aluminum cans. They listened to speeches and music. "They" all 20 million of them from around the nation celebrated the environment and tried to call it to the attention of politicians. And they succeeded in the following decade around 33 Environmental Initiatives were passed! 
So they say history repeats itself right? That fashion cycles through every 40 years? Well if I did the math right, that means we should have the fashion of the 1970s, bell bottoms, miniskirts, flowers. And oddly enough I kind of feel like we're repeating the history of the 70's again. The Vietnam War...The War in Afghanistan. I think the majority of America is trying to get the environment to be  the focus in politics again. I mean isn't that what Obama's "change" is all about?
So if 40 years ago they were able to organize the first Earth Day and get 20 million people nationwide to participate...without even having the internet,  twitter,  email, or cell phones, then why haven't we in this technological age been trying to make bigger strides to help our environment?

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