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Earth Day: April 22, 1970
U.S Senator Gaylord Nelson (D, WI) had always been troubled by the simple fact that the state of the environment was a non-issue in national politics. The publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in September 1962 reinforced the notion there were problems that were being ignored. Nelson traveled with President Kennedy on the Conservation Tour in 1963 and, though the tour did little to bring environmentalism to the forefront, it created awareness in Nelson that action was needed.
The idea did not come quickly but in 1969 he realized that, if the enthusiasm of the anti-war movement could be infused into the emerging public consciousness regarding air and water quality, environmental protection could be forced onto the national agenda. With that thought the idea of the first Earth Day was born.
First Earth Day
In September 1969 Nelson announced that there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration in support of the environment in the spring of 1970 and everyone was invited to participate. They idea exploded and there were an astonishing number of environmental events and teach-ins scheduled for both Earth Day and Earth Week.
Senator Gaylord Nelson, “Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”
As a result of that first Earth Day groups that had been fighting various aspects of the deterioration of the environment realized they had common goals. People of all walks of life, various economic situations and differing political views worked together to create the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
Earth Week Philadelphia: April 16 -22, 1970
In Philadelphia the Earth Week Committee settled on a common objective: to raise public awareness of environmental problems and their potential solutions. Earth Week 1970 is still remembered as one of the most successful public activities, if not the most successful, in the city’s history.