Sustainability 50: Earth Day
Little did I know (long-haired rocker that I considered myself at the time), as I helped assemble public display panels on environmental issues on a campus quadrangle in the spring of 1970, that I was taking part in launching a sustainability event that would resonate around the globe ever more strongly 40 years on.
It took a Wisconsin Senator, disgusted with government inaction over a massive oil spill off the coast of California, with the assistance of a dedicated Harvard graduate student and a small group of volunteers in New York City, to crystallize the concept for the very first Earth Day.
Senator Gaylord Nelson, an early environmental activist, recognized the social consciousness raising effected by the various Vietnam War teach-ins of the late 1960s. He envisioned similar educational and public awareness campaigns on environmental issues at college campuses across the land.
Beginning in late 1969, he and other activists planned a nationwide (if not global) event for the following year. Bolstered by increasing media attention and growing volunteer efforts, Earth Day began to take shape. The New York Times announced the upcoming event; New York City Mayor Lindsay agreed to shut down 5th Avenue for it.
After an early dry run via the educational event Project Survival at Northwestern University in January of 1970, the first Earth Day took place simultaneously at thousands of U.S. colleges. Occurring on April 22, 1970, it involved an estimated 20 million Americans (including me and my display panels). The goal of preserving our precious blue marble galvanized all of those of us who had been fighting air and water pollution, industrial expansion, pesticides, sprawl, loss of wilderness, extinction of species, and environmental degradation.
Throughout its first 20 years, observance of Earth Day rippled outward from those first 20 million Americans to include over 200 million world citizens from more than 140 nations. By 2007, the influence of the event had wrapped even farther around our globe, involving an estimated 1 billion souls.
Denis Hayes (that 1970 Harvard graduate student) has since gone on to co-found Earth Day Network. That network — consisting of almost 20,000 agencies in 192 of the world’s countries — supports and promotes Earth Day observances around the planet, as well as a variety of other educational, political, social and cultural efforts geared toward environmentalism, conservation, sustainability and green principles.
Rather than on April 22nd, observance of Earth Day by the United Nations falls on the spring equinox (often March 20th). In the Southern Hemisphere, Earth Day is observed in the fall. Many locations around the globe celebrate an entire Earth Week, usually a period that culminates on April 22nd.
- Sustainability 48: the environment
We're all in this together The movement toward sustainability is a direct descendant of the social movement of environmentalism. And environmentalism, far from being a new phenomenon, has been with mankind for more than a millennium. The first...
- Sustainability 6: Population
Rays of hope One of the prime movers of the world’s sustainability crisis is its population. The more mouths to feed, the more thirsts to quench, the more children to clothe and educate, the more families to house, the more sick and infirm to...
- Sustainability 62: Rain Gardens
In essence deceptively simple, rain gardens offer yet one more incremental method of achieving greater sustainability and improved water resources.
- Sustainability 10: Density
To many, it seems counter-intuitive that packing the globe's inhabitants more tightly might actually be good for the planet's sustainability, but it's a fact.
- Sustainability 47: Green Labeling
Label him green? With the world’s ever-increasing concentration on environmentally sound green design and sustainability, there has been an ever-increasing set of green design standards, guidelines, certifications and labeling. Here are some of...
- Sustainability 49: Rachel Carson
Save our endangered species A woman whom many consider to be a founder of America’s environmental movement, and an advocate for sustainability, Rachel Carson began as a precocious 8-year-old Pennsylvania farm girl, writing stories of animals in...
- Sustainability 47: Green Labeling
With the worlds ever-increasing concentration on environmentally sound green design and sustainability, there has been an ever-increasing set of green design standards, guidelines,...
- Sustainability 53: Living Buildings
Buildings in harmony with nature.
- Sustainability 59: Walmart
When the worlds largest retailer strives toward a sustainable world, we all reap the benefits.
More by this Author
The Architecture of the Western Reserve is a bit like comedy or pornography — it may be very hard to define, but you'll know it when you see it.
If we are going to truly go green, then we must be aware what population trends tell us about the future.
Optimize land use and parking convenience
No comments yet.