We get forgetful or jaded, but my son, at 21, asked me to write something on Earth Day this morning.

I have been around a relatively long time, and do, vaguely….remember the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  In those years I have forgotten the origin and history but some things stick or become part of the conduct of our daily life.

(NPR just started playing Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring”. Can there be a better theme song for Earth Day?  An American composer who was steeped in the beauty of the New England environment.)

The 60’s had cheap gas and acid rain.  Perhaps it was a hard slog to get the attention of the public as to what was happening to the environment.  The eco movement was barely born, only in isolated concerns.

Perhaps the first ‘wake up’ call was Rachel Carson’s  “Silent Spring” published in 1962.  A wake up call indeed, for she writes about a world without birds, killed off by common pesticides and chemical agents.

People started to wake up.

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had been concerned about the environment for a while, and in 1962 proposed some ideas to then-President Kennedy.  But things didn’t go very far.

Senator Nelson pursued with his ideas, and had two young staffers to work on a proposed Earth Day.  He picked April 22 because he thought it would be embraced by college students, then a key element for social change, with SDS and SNCC and many campus organizations. It was past Easter and Passover, and on a weekday, it would not be disturbing the weekend activities of students.  Exams would have been over.

Spring was the season of the Earth’s rebirth and our environment needed a rebirth.

The moon walk of 1968 also helped the world’s consciousness with pix of the Earth, a big blue marble, being broadcast back from the moon.

Twenty million people participated in the first Earth Day, 1970. As Senator Nelson said:  “Earth Day organized itself”.  No one was prepared for the mass embracing of this first Earth Day.

In NYC, 5th Avenue was closed to traffic and people picknicked on the sidewalks. In Indiana, women dressed as witches threw birth control pills at gathered spectators.  In Virginia students handed out bags of dirt, symbolizing “The Good Earth”.

The then Nixon administration had no comment on the celebration of 20,000,000 people in this  country.  But within 3 months after this first Earth Day, Nixon signed in the EPA, the Clean Wather Act, the Pesticide Controll Act and other legislation.  Someone up there was noticing the mass appeal of Earth Day.

We vary in our consciousness and intent since then.  other legislation have come into law, but perhaps what is the legacy of that first Earth Day in 1970 is a tremendous national consciousness about our environment.  The ecological movement was born from then and the fruits are ripening each year.

Sometimes it seems a drop in the proverbial bucket, as we read of species disappearing every day and issues of rainforest/global warming/ other ecological concerns.

Our consciusness is ragged, and our attention spans are, too.  However, the Green Movement gathers strength and conviction and each of us has become more aware of our ‘footprint’ and also what we can daily do.  Recycling, birthed from that first few years after 1970, and composting are things we can do easily from our homes.  There aer many magazines and sources to educate us now where before the ‘green movement’ was marginalized.

I planted an apple tree this morning, bought for this purpose to celebrate Earth Day, 2009.  I very small drop in the sea, but an attempt towards mindfulness for the future.

Lady Nyo


Sharp brittle wind
Sailing like clipper glass
Cutting the skin razor thin,
Flaying off winter’s covering.

This spring can ‘t wait.
It lies, promising comforting warmth,
Yet delivers the opposite.

I hear the laughter in the pines.
They moan, or echo an evil chuckle.

No matter.
This argument will be over
Once the earth
Pirouettes  on point.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

I took this picture of the eastern sky April 21, 2009 at 7am in the morning, here in Atlanta.  Gorgeous sky after a storm the night before.

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