Friday, April 16, 2010

Earth Day - the 40th anniversary

Senator Gaylor Nelson of Wisconsin, The founder of Earth Day.

April 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the annual celebration of Mother Earth. Earth Day was founded by Former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (1916 - 2005). Nelson led a grassroots campaign starting in 1962 to raise awareness for environmental issues. He said that the Vietnam protests at universities, which were called ''sitins'' were so effective that he knew a similar campaign would work.

''For several years, it had been troubling me the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country'', Nelson said.
''Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political ''limelight'' once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.
After President Kennedy's tour, which planted the seeds for Earth Day to blossom six years later, Nelson continued canvassing. Having seen exposure Anti-Vietnam protests raised, he got the idea to apply the same method to his environmental interests and organized a grassroots campaign in 1970.
''I was satisfied if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto political agenda,'' Nelson said. ''It was a big gamble, but worth a try.''
Nelson announced at a conference in Seattle in September 1969 that he was launching a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment ; Earth Day.
"The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephones inquiries poured in from all across the country," Nelson said. ''The American people finally had a forum to express, its concerns about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air - and they did so with spectacular exuberance.''
On April, 22 1970, Earth Day happened. All across the United States, 20 million Americans organized protests against deterioration of the environment.
Sen. Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, for his role as the founder of Earth Day. He went on to pass other environmental legislation such as the preservation of the Appalachian Trail, and the mandating of fuel efficiency standards in automobiles, etc
He spent his final Earth Day helping his grandson plant a tree at his school. Senator Gaylord Nelson returned to the earth on July 3, 2005.


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