On April 22, 1970, in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, members of my 8th grade science class trekked to the local creek, where we began cleaning the banks of gum wrappers, soda cans, beer bottles and paper. It was a “feel good” type of activity, but it was also time off from classes, so everyone was in a celebratory mood. We didn’t realize it then, but that day marked the first Earth Day of many more to come.
Earth Day actually had its roots much earlier in 1962, when Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin became determined that the needs of the environment be addressed by politicians. He approached President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, about making a national conservation tour. Both liked this idea, so in September 1963, the President made a five-day, 11-state tour, promoting conservation. While this tour did not make the political impact that Nelson would have liked, it did set the tone for future plans. These included legislation that Senator Nelson authored for the creation of a national hiking trails program and the Appalachian Trail System. Nelson was also instrumental in co-sponsoring the Wilderness Act, which eventually led to the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.
Six years later, Senator Nelson made his own conservation tour, speaking on college campuses during the anti-Vietnam movement. It occurred to him that the grassroots energy that students invested in their feelings about Vietnam could be used to protest what was happening to our environment, and thus thrust conservation in the eye of politicians. At a conference in Seattle, Nelson announced that in the spring of 1970, there would be a nationwide protest on behalf of the environment, and that everyone was welcome to participate.
The response was immediate and energetic. Thousands of schools and communities participated, each in their own way. The New York Times reported, “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”
Since that time, Earth Day has been celebrated each spring to remind us of the importance of our environment, and how each of us can make a difference. Ten years before the Senator’s death in 2005, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, remarking that “As the father of Earth Day…He inspired us to remember that the stewardship of our natural resources is the stewardship of the American Dream.”
Although Earth Day is officially commemorated by communities across the nation on April 22nd, the week leading up to this date often includes special events. The University of Massachusetts in Boston, for example, is holding an Earth Day Fair to raise awareness about environmental issues. At the National Mall in Washington, D.C., an event called The Green Generation will launch. The Green Apple Festival took place on April 17-19 in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.
While these events are remarkable demonstrations of a unified ecological attitude, we all know that the stewardship message behind Earth Day must be practiced every day in order for a long term positive ecological impact to take place. Members of the BBEST team carry that message forward by developing eco-friendly products and practices, and by creating artistic products that remind us of our responsibilities to this planet.
Sue of maddyandme, for example, does her part by upcycling the leftover wool fibers that are part of her felting process in a Spring Bird Nesting Kit.
Joon of joonwalk makes whimsical Pocketfuls of Starlight that use vintage or reclaimed fabrics, notions and buttons.
Beth of BethPeardonProds speaks about the impact we have on the environment through sand-writing in her ACEO-sized photo, “God’s Earth.”
Through her bubblescape titled “Compassion,” Diane of DianeClancy reminds us, “Compassion for ourselves, other people and the earth is an important part of protecting the environment.”
Sara of LaughingOtterJewelry suggests the symbiotic relationships in nature with her bracelet, “Earth and Water.”
Kate of heronkate points to the origins of the earth and how time affects our planet through her Southwestern-colored, pyramid-shaped earrings, shaded like layers of sedimentary rock. According to some, the ancient Egyptians believed that the earth sprang from a mound shaped like a pyramid.
In her shop, Joni of jstinson features a print titled “Sacred Sites,” by Dakota artist Donel Keeler. According to Joni, the Native Warrior in this illustration “is imploring us to protect the ancient and sacred sites of our Native people.” This respect for people, their history and their relationship to the earth underscores part of what Earth Day is all about.
To read other environment-related blog posts by Boomers, refer to the posts below.
© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission.Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogpost.com.