KENTUCKY (4/22/13) – Each year April 22 marks the anniversary of the environmental movement of 1970. Earth Day is now globally celebrated with events that focus on “Being Green.”
At the height of the hippie and flower-child culture, the 1970s imprinted the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, the raging war of Vietnam and the establishment of Earth Day. Inspired by the anti-war movement and witnessing the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbra, California, Founder of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson realized that if he was somehow able to infuse the energy and the public’s awareness about water and air pollution, it would help enforce environmental protection onto the national political agenda.
By the early 1960s, Americans were slowing becoming aware of the effects pollution was having on the environment. In Rachel Carson’s 1962 bestseller “Silent Spring,” raised the concern of the dangerous effects pesticides were having on our countryside across the United States. In 1969, the chemical waste that was released into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River became symbolic of how industrial pollution was damaging America’s natural resources. In that same year, and inspired by the anti-war teach-ins, Senator Nelson announced the idea of Earth Day at a demonstration against the degradation of America’s natural resources.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million people participated in the inaugural Earth Day activities throughout the United States and the environmental advocacy group Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) was established. In the late 1970s, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established by President Nixon to help protect human health and safeguard our natural environment (air, water and land). In 1971, the environmental activist organization Greenpeace was founded and today, they have offices in 40 different countries around the world. In 1972 and in 1973, both the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act were passed by Congress to help protect our waters (rivers, lakes and streams) and protect our animals and their ecosystems.
By the time the 90s rolled around, Earth Day was globally being celebrated by 140 different countries around the world. In 1995, Senator Gaylord Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton, which is the highest award a civilian can receive, in honor of all his hard work in protecting the environment. President Bill Clinton says of Nelson: "As the father of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event.
On July 3, 2005, Founder of Earth Day Gaylord Nelson passed away at the age of 89, but left behind a legacy which has led us into the future of taking care of our planet.
Today, we are still fighting to protect our environment. However, if we all realized that we have the power to make a difference, and take that energy to discovering ways we can save our planet so that our future will have a safe place to live.
Photos Provided by Amber Mena
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