Today, April 22, marks the 33rd anniversary of Earth Day. Since the first such event in 1970, Earth Day has become a national day of awareness. As such, it is not "celebrated" like a holiday, but is observed in the form of seminars, workshops, activities, and teach-ins in cities and towns throughout the land.

The product of a multitude of individual grass-roots movements and the work of visionaries like Gaylord Nelson, then Senator from Wisconsin, the original Earth Day was a spectacular nationwide environmental demonstration involving an estimated 20 million Americans.

April 22, 1970, a Wednesday, was a picture-perfect spring day in most parts of the country. National newspapers had full-page rosters of coming events, while television networks had provided sufficient coverage to give the coming event the aura of a national holiday.

John V. Lindsay, mayor of New York City, closed Fifth Avenue to traffic for two full hours between Greenwich Village and Midtown, bringing the city to a virtual standstill. In Washington, thousands of Earth Day demonstrators gathered at the Washington Monument of hear speeches as well as songs by folk singer Pete Seeger and others.

To countless participants, Earth Day was a turning point in their lives. Byron Kennard, then a grassroots coordinator with The National Conservation Commission recalls it as "one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in human history….A charmed event…foundation of a national environmental consciousness."

The spark behind all of this was the state of the environment by the end of the 1960's. Environmental problems were proliferating everywhere. Rampant air pollution was linked to disease and death in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere as noxious fumes, spewed out by cars and factories, made the term "quality of life" an oxymoron in many communities. In the wake of Rachel Carlson's 1962 best-seller Silent Spring, there was widespread concern for the first time over the use of pesticides. Another wake-up call happened in Ohio when Cleveland's Cuyahoga River, saturated with oil and industrial waste, burst into flames spontaneously. Since that first Earth Day, much progress has been made to preserve the environment, and make the home and workplace safer and healthier.

In observance of the 33rd Earth Day, kids at the Greenwood Center participated in a day-long series of events yesterday. Aided by a small number of students from Springfield College, the youngsters assiduously gathered trash and debris on the grounds, collected recyclable containers, went on a bird watch, and received all sorts of conscious-raising information about the environment and how to preserve and protect it.

The activities of Earth Day culminated in the ceremonial planting of a tree. A 350 pound flowering pear sapling was procured through the Department of Parks and Recreation. A suitable spot, outside the main classroom, was selected. The sturdy college students dug the hole, and the youngsters rallied together to place the 15-foot sapling in its new home. With proper care, the flowering pear is expected to last a half-century.

It was a fine day all around. It's a beautiful new tree which will serve through the years as a reminder of the fragile balance we are the custodians of.




Send any comments to webmaster@longmeadow.org