Earth Day 1970-2011

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In September 1969, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson developed the idea of Earth Day, a nationwide, grassroots demonstration that would take place in the spring of the following year. Everyone was invited to participate. “The response was electric,” he told “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 concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air — and they did so with spectacular exuberance…Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level…That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day — it organized itself.”

In this video, however, Walter Cronkite offers a slightly more sobering recap of Earth Day 1970:

“Someday…the world will be a better place, if it listens and acts,” Cronkite says. “But in the meantime, perhaps for a generation or more, it will be frighteningly costly to each of us to clean up the mess each of us has made. But the cost of not doing so is more frightening. What is at stake…is survival.”

Forty years later, Cronkite's words still ring true — and Earth Day events continue to be popular. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency for a list of Earth Day activities happening near you.

–Whitney Dreier

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