Forty two years ago on April 22 the first Earth Day was established by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson who called for an environmental teach-in, or Earth Day in 1970. Earth Day is now coordinated globally on a grand scale by the Earth Day Network, a coalition of quasi-governmental agencies, local governments, activists, and others and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year. In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day “a global effort to accelerate the growing awareness that we must enter a new phase of reconciliation and stewardship of our beleaguered planet”.
Some sources trace the term “Earth Day” to John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, or the City of Saint Francis, patron saint of ecology. Earth Day was first observed in San Francisco and other cities on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.
Over 20 million people participated in 1970 and the observance has now grown to include more than 1 billion people and several national governments in 175 countries who observe the date. And now, an entire Earth Week is observed in many places. It’s an entire week of activities focused on educating the planet’s stewards (us) on environmental issues.
Back in those heady days when the new age was dawning on a post-industrialized world that left behind abandoned brownfields sites of hazardous waste and other pollution, we announced that we would reclaim the Earth. The industrial manufacturing age had bestowed America with a legacy of smog, contaminated water and a landscape peppered with all those nasty sites blighted with scrap medal, brackish soil and fuel tanks cancered-out with rust holes.
After abandoning America for cheaper labor, new markets or massive close-outs, a degraded landscape was left behind. It was the result of manufacturers like Lockheed Martin that ditched a former factory site in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey where 67 acres lay saturated with volatile compounds and other deadly contaminants until an EPA-approved cleanup transformed the site into a neo-traditional mixed use, mixed income transit village.
Senator Nelson had conceived the idea for his environmental teach-in following a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after a devastating oil spill off the coast of California in 1969, 6 miles from Santa Barbara. That spill ranks third in damage and volume after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and the 1989 Exxon Valdez spills. These oil disasters were caused by what’s known as a “blowout”, or an uncontrolled explosion of crude oil from an oil well due to extreme pressure and after the control systems fail. Read the rest of this entry →