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New priorities as Earth Day turns 45
Nearly half a century ago, when smog choked numerous U.S. cities and toxic waste fouled many waterways — most infamously, Cleveland’s chemically contaminated Cuyahoga River, which spontaneously caught fire — a small group of activists founded Earth Day principally to help curb air and water pollution.
Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a leading organizer, modeled the event after teach-ins that protested U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and persuaded some 20 million Americans to attend thousands of peaceful demonstrations at colleges, universities, schools and parks across the country.
That first Earth Day, 45 years ago today, is considered the birth of the environmental movement, and within a decade it inspired landmark legislation.
Earth Day has grown to an international event observed in 192 countries, continuing to draw attention to some of the same issues but now focused on topics that were far off the radar in 1970 — most notably climate change and the concept of sustainability.
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