by Wendy Gabriel
I’m more than a little irritated by all the Earth Day consumerism going on. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day which was started as the first nationwide environmental protest. Peddling “green” and “eco” items at a reduced price during Earth Week is not the point of this day/week.
Meet the founder of Earth Day – Gaylord Nelson
Gaylord Nelson was a leading figure in the fight against environmental degradation and social injustice in the twentieth century.
As a Wisconsin senator, Nelson contributed to important liberal reforms but struggled for years to interest his colleagues in environmental protections. So he turned instead to the people, proposing April 22, 1970 as a day for Americans to speak out about the environmental crises they faced. Earth Day’s massive public support forced politicians to see the severity of the problems and the extent of public concern. The first Earth Day galvanized Congress into creating some of the most important U.S. environmental legislation. Gaylord Nelson earned environmentalism a lasting place in national politics.
An estimated 20 million Americans, young and old, gathered on April 22, 1970 to confront the ecological troubles in their cities, states, nation, and planet—and to demand action from themselves and from their elected officials.
Education was always at the heart of Gaylord Nelson’s work. He knew early on the success of environmental movement would depend not primarily on budgets or regulations, but on “a new awareness of the ecological bonds between man and his environment.”
In the years following the first Earth Day he strove to make its anniversary an annual celebration of ecological education in schools. Thousands of educators shared Nelson’s goal of bolstering environmental literacy. In 1970, the University of Wisconsin founded its Institute for Environmental Studies—today bearing Nelson’s name—and in 1985 the state legislature made Wisconsin the first state to require environmental education in its elementary and high schools.
Source: Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day
How will you celebrate Earth Day?