Senator’s grass-roots environmental cause solidifies |

Senator’s grass-roots environmental cause solidifies

by Andy Bourelle

In the 1960s, a U.S. Senator was concerned that the president, Congress and the press did not seem to care about the state of the environment. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin cared, and he tried to find a way to bring the issue to the forefront in the United States.

It took him years, but the result of his efforts became Earth Day. The first event was in 1970, and the success was everything he had hoped for.

“It was truly an astonishing grassroots explosion,” Nelson said. “The people cared, and Earth Day became the first opportunity they ever had to join in a nationwide demonstration to send a big message to the politicians – a message to tell them to wake up and do something.”

It was a time of turmoil on college campuses, where students were performing protests – anti-war teach-ins – all over the country. On an airplane, reading an article about the teach-ins, the idea for Earth Day occurred to Gaylord. Why not have a nationwide teach-in on the environment?

In 1969, at a speech in Seattle, Gaylord announced there would be a national environmental teach-in in spring 1970. Wire services carried the story nationwide. The response was dramatic. An estimated 20 million people participated in demonstrations all across the country for the first Earth Day.

“Earth Day achieved what I had hoped for,” Gaylord said. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.”

-Information for this story was taken from the World Wide Web:

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