Remembering the First Earth Day


| 10/10/2013 10:27:00 AM


Tags: Earth Day, pollution, Linda Holliday, Missouri,

Linda HollidayWe didn’t watch much TV when I was young, partly because my mother freaked out about wasting electricity and ruining our eyes. So, for me to recall a single program is no big deal – except the CBS Special Report I remember aired 43 years ago.

I was in elementary school when newscaster Walter Cronkite presented Earth Day: A Question of Survival in 1970, the year Mother Earth News debuted. Earth Day’s founder, Sen. Gaylord Nelson, hailed from my home state of Wisconsin.

Although I didn’t understand every program point, and my dad called all activists “hippies,” the movement fascinated me because I was an outdoorsy kid building forts, sledding, fishing, swimming or just exploring. I didn’t want my world to change.

I scored an A+ on my poster project that first Earth Day. I drew a crying rabbit sitting on a stump surrounded by acres of sawn trees. He held a sign spelling P-O-L-L-U-T-I-O-N, with each letter starting corresponding words my young mind perceived as being really bad. With a dictionary, I came up with Putrid, Obscene, Loud, Lousy, Ugly, Toxic, Icky, Oily and Nasty.

I thought our planet’s problems were roadside garbage and air pollution in far-off cities. I knew nothing of nuclear waste, ozone depletion, global warming, melting icecaps, peak oil, genetic pollution, aquifer depletion, deforestation, overpopulation or extinction of species.duck illustration

Then I realized while reviewing Earth Day 1970 videos no one mentioned those issues. Our concerns were more tangible – industrial pollution and a general sloppiness. Cronkite spoke of “fouled skies, filthy water and littered earth.”

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