The History of Earth Day

Imagine companies dumping waste wherever they wanted.  Imagine factories allowing black clouds of toxicity to spread like wild fire into the air we breathe.  Now, after taking a moment to come back from those horrible thoughts, be relieved.  Relieved that there was a man sensible enough to generate the idea of regulations to protect our environment.  That man was Gaylord Nelson.

Nelson was born on June fourth in the year 1916, in Clear Lake, WI.  He attended the University of Wisconsin’s Law program where he received his degree in 1942.  Gaylord began his political career running on a progressive Republican platform for a position in the state legislature.  Nelson lost his first race, but it was not enough to discourage him from trying again.

The next time Nelson ran, he ran on the Democratic platform for a position in the Wisconsin State Senate.  Gaylord Nelson served 10 years in this position until he became the governor of Wisconsin in 1958.  Once Nelson became governor, he developed a program entitled the Outdoor Recreation Acquisition Program.  The plan was to increase state-protected areas through a small tax on a pack of cigarettes.  How small you ask?  The tax consisted of a single cent being added to the total cost of a pack of smokes.  Gaylord Nelson’s tactics to support and encourage environmentalism didn’t stop at a penny tax.

Nelson is credited with the development of Earth Day.  For those who don’t know, Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day to further educate citizens on environmental issues.  Earth Day is a growing movement even known to extend so far as Earth Week.  However, when the original Earth Day was held, it was Nelson who made it work.  It was the 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools that participated in the event.  According to Nelson, “Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level.”

In a brief summary, Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson a Wisconsin State Senator and Governor.  The movement wouldn’t have worked if it hadn’t been for the participants.  This is a perfect example of how great ideas can spread like wild fires and ignite the minds of the people of the world.

On campus, for Earth Week, there will be a Recyclable Fashion Show held in the Timmerman Auditorium in Hyland Hall at 4pm on Wednesday, April 24.  Students will be designing outfits and accessories from recyclable materials and will then show them off on the runway.  Make sure to come out and show your support and even join the movement that is Earth Week.

Thank you for joining this week’s Conservation Conversation!

– Michael Jaworski

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