Earth Day

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According to science, the earth was created 4.54 billion years ago by the collision of a giant disc-shaped gas that had formed the Sun. Asteroids clumped together to form the solar system including Earth. When the atmosphere was more attainable to create life, earth flourished.

Earth has endured so much changes in the amount of time that it had formed when dinosaurs roamed the land until now. Today, we have massive skyscrapers, populated cities, and fossil fuels overtaking mother nature’s once pure atmosphere.

Today is Earth Day, and it is the time of year when we celebrate and appreciate what earth has given us thus far. Although climate change is a serious threat that is facing controversy among people, I try to take advantage of the beautiful scenery here in Alaska and clean up around the neighborhood.

Most people in Alaska celebrate and appreciate this day by taking an adventure into the back country and surround themselves in it’s rawness or helping out the city by picking up trash. As I was going home from work, the highways were cleaned up from litter and put into plastic bags for the solid waste services to pick up later on.

I started to analyze the state of my city, and that lead to the pondering of the history of Earth Day.

Earth Day 1970
Students in St. Louis, Missouri march on the streets against air pollution in 1970.

By the 1960’s, Americans were slowly becoming aware of the harmful effects of industrial pollution. In 1963, Gaylord Nelson was elected U.S. Senate from Wisconsin. He was determined to convince the federal government how much pollution was really damaging the water and air around them. His goal was to raise awareness of this issue and address the American people to take care of their homes.

Gaylord Nelson - Founder of Earth Day
Gaylord Nelson in the 1963 Democratic National Convention. Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society.

Nelson was considered one of the leaders of the modern environmental movement. After being introduced to the anti-Vietnam War “teach ins” that were being taught on university campuses across the United States, he took that as an inspiration to develop the Earth Day concept.

He took this to a conference the fall of 1969 in Seattle, and welcomed the entire nation to get involved. After the conference, the idea had spread rapidly across the United States. A young activist from Stanford University named Dennis Hayes recollected, “The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes and air–and they did so with spectacular exuberance.” Hayes became the Earth Day’s national coordinator and worked with a large group of students volunteers and staff members from Nelson’s office to manage the project.

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Dennis Hayes organizing the first Earth Day in 1970. Courtesy of AP/Wide World Photos.

In 1970 of April 22, rallies in large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia filled the streets.

In New York City, a portion of Fifth Avenue was closed off to traffic for several hours as Mayor John Lindsay spoke in Union Square along with actors Paul Newman and Ali McGraw.

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A Scene on the streets of Manhattan during Earth Day 1970.

 

As I resurface my thoughts to today’s Earth Day, so much has changed. Earth Day’s meaning has altered. I see it as a way to appreciate the land by enjoying the outdoors as do many other people. Although we still have yet to improve the state of mother earth, this day commemorates the idea that earth is not ours to keep; it is a place to nurture, for we are only here for a moment.

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