Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 1970

It seems like I was everywhere during the heady, waning days of the late sixties and early seventies. I was. And, I wasn't.

But this time I was.

Forty years ago today.

Philadelphia. Dogwood and magnolia blossoms in full bloom. Us, too.

The first Earth Day. April 22, 1970. An environmental teach-in.

Propelled by a sense of urgency. Threats to the environment. The burning Cuyahoga River. Acid rain. Napalm deforestations. We were killing our earth. The penultimate wasting asset. Our home. Our neighborhood. Decaying before our eyes.

Our idealistic ... and ironically quite logical ... Woodstock Nation sensibilities threatened. Mocked by multinational corporations, crop dusters, aging coal-fueled factories and a brand spanking new interstate highway system luring Detroit's automakers to quintuple output. Trains, buses, monorails ... public transportation infrastructure be damned.

In short, the globe's natural resources were depleting rapidly before our eyes. Acid rain poured into our rivers, our streams, our fishing habitats. Life sustaining water contaminated. Shrouds of heavy yellow smog and gritty coal particles from factories raging uncontrolled polluted the skies. We were killing the planet. One neighborhood at a time. Single-handed. Headed for hell in a handbasket.

Unconscionable trade-offs. Corporate interests v the health of our unborn children's children's children. We’re simply not going to all wake up, sing Kumbaya around a cackling camp fire and tackle these problems.

Altogether some 20 million people – 10% of the U.S. population – participated in 1970 Earth Day teach-ins, marches, and rallies across the country. Nearly half were students. I was one of them. On the Earth Day organizing committee. Lured by the promise of saving our habitat. Our planet. Hand-in-hand, but of course, with brilliant, motivated, mostly good looking (if you could imagine their fresh faces sans beards) college boys from all over the east coast. My Briarcliff suite mate, Jill Gardner, dating Larry Rockefeller got us the gig. Weekly treks to either The City (New York, of course), Philadelphia or D.C.

A happening. Inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing the prior summer. We were energized. Propelled by the Moody Blues in their lyrical, psychedelic ode to our children's children's children born from Native American wisdom.

[© 1969 Deram/Polydor. All rights reserved.]

So where are we now? These 40 years later? Same place. Same destruction. Greying hair and apathy. Good God. The more we changed, the more we stayed the same.

Treat the earth well.
It was not given to you by your parents,
it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors,
we borrow it from our Children.
~ Ancient Indian Saying

Our radical, forward thinking uprising morphed four decades later into an innocuous Hallmark greeting card.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid that Earth Day passed me by, which is not a good sign.