A beautiful April day, as I remember it. (I just checked- I was right.) It was sunny Wednesday and almost 70 degrees F. as students sat on the lawn and heard speakers tell us about the environmental dangers facing us. I was a senior and it was the first Earth Day!
The first Earth Day family had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform." It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year." Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.
|Images from Lehigh's first Earth Day celebration, from the Epitome, 1970.|
I wish we had come farther than we have. Yes, many advances have occurred, but the past years of extreme push-back against climate change is amazingly short-sighted. Everything has become an even greater point of divisiveness and in many places just the mention of "climate change" gets people more divided and hostile than the mention of marriage equality. We have not yet truly accepted that this is the only home we have. And we better take care of it.