Thursday, April 29, 2010

Earth's Day & How It All Began

By Ashleigh Schuddekopf

Earth Day, internationally designated on April 22, is a day to raise awareness and appreciate the environment we live in. With issues that affect our Earth at hand, we take them head-on, ready to start a movement that will inspire people to ‘go green’ and look for other, more organic ways to live.

The idea of Earth Day was created by Wisconsin’s Gaylord Nelson. Nelson grew up in the public school system in his hometown of Clear Lake, and studied at the University of Wisconsin Law. Then, in 1942 he served as a lieutenant in World War 2 for four years. He became one of the State Senates of Wisconsin in the 50’s and a U.S. Senate throughout the 60’s.

Nelson’s key idea was to plug environmental awareness to Washington D.C. With this outcry for help, he organized this once-a-year “teach-in” day to alert people about our environmental crisis, which eventually became Earth Day.

"Rising concern about the ‘environmental crisis’ is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam. A national day of observance of environmental problems, analogous to the mass demonstrations on Vietnam, is being planned for next spring, when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in' coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned," Gladwin Hill of the New York Times wrote in an article in September of 1969.

Several months later, Nelson’s plan took action. New York City on April 22nd, 1970, our Earth’s first official day, had over one million people filling 5th Avenue and Central Park. Fred Kent, a student at Columbia University was the ring-leader of this project. He rented out office space and recruited people for the big day’s plans.

"The big break came when Mayor Lindsay agreed to shut down 5th Avenue for the event. A giant cheer went up in the office on that day," Kent said. Pairing up with Mayor Lindsey and his staff took Earth Day to a whole new level. Not to mention the coverage by NBC, ABC, CBS, and the New York Times.

In the streets of Manhattan more than 20,000 college students from all over America joined in on concerts, lectures, and street theater to rally against pollution, over population and other potential dangers against our environment. Earth Day was one of the nation’s largest demonstrations in American history.

Forty years later, New Yorkers still have a proud way of showing their pride for the Earth. This year we celebrate Earth Day’s 40th anniversary. Not much different from decades ago, New York City’s streets are again filled with activists and members on the community all looking to make our Earth a greener place.

TerraCycle, a company based on creating over 100 products out of recycled waste, such as chip bags, food wrappers, yogurt cups, glue bottles and writing instruments, is open until May 1st outside of Port Authority.

Also, TerraCycle has an allotted area for consumers to drop off any non-recyclable wastes. Those who do so receive a discount on any purchases made during their visit to the shop.

"Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction,” wrote the New York Times the day after Earth Day 2010.

For more information, enjoy these following links.

Ashleigh Schuddekopf is a senior at Ramapo College. I am currently studying Communications with a concentration in Writing. Writing has always been a passion of mine, regardless of the topic. I hope one day to be an editor of a magazine and novelist.

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