Wednesday, April 20, 2011
U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin is credited as being the founder of Earth Day. Nelson, inspired by the anti-war movement of the 1960's, felt that if that same kind of energy could be harnessed for an environmental movement it would force environmental issues onto the national political agenda.
That first year 20 million Americans demonstrated in massive coast-to-coast rallies for a healthy environment while thousands of colleges and universities protested against the deerioration of the environment. A political alignment was also achieved that day as supporters from different walks of life (rich and poor, Republican and Democrat, urban and rural) came together for a common cause.
Earth Day 1970 led to President Richard Nixon's decision to create the United States Environmental Protection Agency as well as passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. For his role as Earth Day founder Senator Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.
Twenty years later in 1990 Earth Day became a global event encompassing 200 million people in 141 countries. Harrisonburg held its first Earth Day celebration that year. Volunteers from the George Washington National Forest were among the participants at the Harrisonburg event.
In 2008 Court Square Theater extended Earth Day into Earth Week and filled the week with speakers and films about climate change and environmental issues. A "green collar" job fair was also held that year at JMU. The fair featured nonprofit organizations and envirnomental consulting and engineering firms.
Want to know more about Earth Day and/or ways you can help the environment? Check out books on Earth Day, recycling, conservation, and other related topics and Massanutten Regional Library. For Earth Day 2011 activities in Harrisonburg, log onto http://hburgearthday.weebly.com/.