Text excerpted from the book: PROTECTING THE PLANET-Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change (ISBN 978-1-63388-225-6)
Budd Titlow & Mariah Tinger
Among the many events heralding the newfound and hardcore lust for environmental protection was the first Earth Day which took place on April 22, 1970. The brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day spotlighted such problems as thermal pollution of the atmosphere, dying lakes, the profusion of solid waste, ruinous strip mining, catastrophic oil spills, and dwindling natural resources. As a pivotal event in the environmental movement, the First Earth Day emphasized that the obsession with industrial growth and consumerism was straining the environment to the breaking point and introduced the idea of living lightly on the Earth.
After the first Earth Day was over, Nelson mulled over what had just occurred as the greatest groundswell demonstration of public support for a cause in US history, “No one could organize 20 million people, 10,000 grade schools and high schools, 2,500 colleges and 1,000 communities in three and a half months even if he had $20 million. [Nelson had just $190,000.] The key to the whole thing was the grass roots response.”
All concerned Climate Change activists would do well to study the unequivocal success of the first Earth Day. The unexpected magnitude of the response to this landmark event clearly shows what can be done when the political and social moods of the country collide together with a message that says, “Let’s get something done”. Furthermore, the resultant outpouring of federal environmental legislation proves that Congress was listening to what the people were asking for. Such a groundswell of public opinion—all speaking with the same voice—will certainly go a long way toward passing similar laws and regulations to initiate real Climate Change solutions both in the US and around the world.
Tricky Dick Comes to the Rescue
The public outcry for fixing the environment became so pervasive across the land, that when President Richard Millhouse Nixon—arguably the most reviled leader in US history—took office he was forced to acknowledge that something had to be done about the environment. Nixon made his feelings quite evident during his first State of the Union Address by saying: “The 1970’s absolutely must be the decade when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air and its waters. … It is literally now or never.” The furious flurry of federal environmental legislation that emanated from Capitol Hill during the first few years of the Seventies offered solid proof that Nixon and the Congress were fully committed to putting federal funds where their mouths were.
President Richard Nixon at work in the Oval Office.
What made this all seem so incongruous was that the demand for more national environmental protection was so great that no administration, including one staffed primarily by conservative and—as proven by the sordid and shameful Watergate Affair in 1972—criminally unscrupulous politicians, could ignore the nationwide clarion calls.
As an aside, I (Budd) vividly remember —as a graduate student at Virginia Tech—having dinner at my dad’s house in Blacksburg, Virginia when the Watergate Break-In was first reported on the CBS Evening News. Walter Cronkite just sort of mentioned it in passing late in the broadcast, essentially as a non-story—“some minor criminal activity at the Washington, DC hotel where the Democratic National Convention was being held”. His dad immediately looked up from cutting his broiled chicken and—displaying his right-on instincts as a lifelong newspaperman—said, “Boy that sure sounds like that just might be a real story!”
Author’s bio:For the past 50 years, professional ecologist and conservationist Budd Titlow has used his pen and camera to capture the awe and wonders of our natural world. His goal has always been to inspire others to both appreciate and enjoy what he sees. Now he has one main question: Can we save humankind’s place — within nature’s beauty — before it’s too late? Budd’s two latest books are dedicated to answering this perplexing dilemma. PROTECTING THE PLANET: Environmental Champions from Conservation to Climate Change, a non-fiction book, examines whether we still have the environmental heroes among us — harking back to such past heroes as Audubon, Hemenway, Muir, Douglas, Leopold, Brower, Carson, and Meadows — needed to accomplish this goal. Next, using fact-filled and entertaining story-telling, his latest book — COMING FULL CIRCLE: A Sweeping Saga of Conservation Stewardship Across America — provides the answers we all seek and need.Having published five books, more than 500 photo-essays, and 5,000 photographs, Budd Titlow lives with his music educator wife, Debby, in San Diego, California.