On this big birthday for Earth Day, I commend to you Peter Fimrite’s flash review of the environmental movement in 1,394 words that appeared in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. Fimrite places Earth Day in historical context, from the 19th-century roots of the conservation movement to our uncertainty in a time of economic anemia, political gridlock, and a looming climate crisis.
The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, was, by all accounts, the beginning of a powerful grassroots movement, helped immeasurably by a famous TV commercial that premiered on Earth Day 1971 of an Indian shedding a tear as he saw pollution all around him.
Today, being green is routine in many people’s lives, but some of the environmental problems from 40 years ago still exist. The difference, according to conservationists, is that environmental issues are woven into the social, economic and political fabric of the country.
Fimrite’s piece is a great review of the topic for those of us who remember the 1970s — and a great introduction to it for those who have come along since.
One of the things to be thankful for as Earth Day enters middle age is that our president and his administration put conservation front and center last week by convening the America’s Great Outdoors conference. If you haven’t watched President Obama’s speech at the conference, it is only 11 minutes and well worth a look–especially to hear him say that, unlike Teddy Roosevelt, he will probably never kill a bear.
Those of us at TPL–the land-for-people people–were particularly gratified to have the president, in his remarks, endorse community-based recreation and conservation and highlight the importance of connecting people to nature where they live: “We want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.”
Later in the conference, Newark Mayor Corey Booker held up his city’s partnership with TPL as an example of how urban parks can be created and revitalized to bring outdoor recreation to city residents. Since 1995, TPL has worked with the city and donors to create nine new Newark parks and playgrounds.
Finally, I can’t help but point out the coincidence of Earth Day, 2010, with the eruption of that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano that brought air traffic to a halt over Northern Europe earlier this week. It never hurts to keep in mind that our technologies are feeble in the face of natural forces. Mother Nature can do some damage when she gets mad–we better learn how to live in her good graces.
(For those who do not recognize the above image, it is a screen capture from “The Crying Indian,” produced by the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful and first aired on Earth Day 1971. You can see the whole of this iconic ad here.)