Sunday, April 13, 2008

How the First Earth Day Came About

By Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked.

Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political "limelight" once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day.

I continued to speak on environmental issues to a variety of audiences in some twenty-five states. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.

After President Kennedy's tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called "teach-ins," had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me - why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. 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. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."

It was obvious that we were headed for a spectacular success on Earth Day. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my U.S. Senate office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquiries, etc. In mid-January, three months before Earth Day, John Gardner, Founder of Common Cause, provided temporary space for a Washington, D.C. headquarters. I staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes as coordinator of activities.

Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lois Marie Gibbs (born 1952) is an American environmental activist.

Gibbs's involvement in environmental causes began in 1978 when she discovered that her 7-year-old son's elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York was built on a toxic waste dump and that frightened for the reason that anything can happen at any time. Subsequent investigation revealed that her entire neighborhood , Love Canal, had been built on top of this dump. With no prior experience in community activism, Gibbs organized her neighbors and formed the Love Canal Homeowners Association. She led her community in a battle against the local, state, and federal governments. After years of struggle, 833 families were eventually evacuated, and cleanup of Love Canal began. National press coverage made Lois Gibbs a household name. Her efforts also led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Superfund," which is used to locate and clean up toxic sites throughout the United States.

In 1980, Gibbs formed the Citizens' Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, later renamed the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. CHEJ is a grassroots environmental crisis center that provides information, resources, technical assistance and training to community groups around the nation. CHEJ seeks to form strong local organizations in order to protect neighborhoods from exposure to hazardous wastes.

Gibbs has authored several books about the Love Canal story and the effects of toxic waste. Her story was dramatized in the 1982 made-for-tv movie "Lois Gibbs: the Love Canal Story", in which she was played by Marsha Mason. In 2006 Lois Gibbs was awarded an Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters from Haverford College for her work as an Environmental Activist.
LaDuke was born in Los Angeles, California to Vincent and Betty LaDuke. Her father was part Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or "Chippewa") from an Indian reservation of Minnesota. He was an actor with supporting roles in Western movies, an activist, a writer, and at the end of his life, a spiritual guru under the name Sun Bear.Her mother was a Jewish artist, employed as an art professor at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. LaDuke is the mother of five.

LaDuke was raised in Ashland,but after graduating from Harvard in 1982 with a degree in rural economic development, she accepted a job as principal of the high school on the Ojibwe White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. She soon became an activist, involved in the struggle to recover lands promised to the Ojibwe by an 1867 treaty. She helped the Ojibwe buy back thousands of acres of ancestral land.

She worked with Women of All Red Nations to publicize the alarmingly high level of forced sterilization among Native American women.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

World Water Day

The international observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. The United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water by adopting a resolution.

This world day for water was to be observed starting in 1993, in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development contained in chapter 18 (Fresh Water Resources) of Agenda 21.

States were invited to devote the Day to implement the UN recommendations and set up concrete activities as deemed appropriate in the national context. The Subcommittee welcomes the assistance offered by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre to contribute to an information network centre in support of the observance of the Day by Governments, as required.

Environmental Defence

Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada’s contribution to climate change.

Canada - Green Drinks

Go to this website to find out where you can meet up with other people just like you who like to talk about the environment.

Canada is a 2005 entrant to the world of Green Drinks.

Toronto - Environmental Dream House