A scene from the 22nd Annual Convention of the United Auto Workers, held in April 1970 to correspond with the first Earth Day
Via the History News Network:
Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the first Earth Day, the largest demonstration in U.S. history. Millions of Americans took part on and around April 22, 1970, with events at nearly every college in the nation, in 10,000 secondary and elementary schools, not to mention community centers, parks, and places of worship. The public outpouring catalyzed Congressional support for a raft of epochal environmental legislation. Perhaps even more important, Earth Day participants—who were more often than not supporters of diverse causes—discovered a kinship with one another, and together began identifying themselves for the first time as “environmentalists.”
But as the modern environmental movement took shape in Earth Day’s wake, a crucial question remained unanswered. What, precisely, constituted the environment? Earth Day’s founder, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, lobbied for an expansive definition of the word. “Environment is all of America and its problems,” he explained to his audience in Denver on the first Earth Day. “It is rats in the ghetto. It is a hungry child in a land of affluence. It is housing not worthy of the name; neighborhoods not fit to inhabit.” His nascent environmentalism was largely indistinguishable from his Great Society liberalism. Accordingly, he lobbied for the creation of thousands of federally funded conservation jobs, as well as for the reallocation of resources from waging war in Southeast Asia to cleaning up domestic pollution. “The objective,” he concluded, “is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”
This broad view of what environmentalism would be, one that bound it tightly to social justice initiatives, appeared elsewhere on the first Earth Day. (more…)
There’s a tiger that’s been prowling Hamilton, Ontario for a few weeks now. Some immortal hand or eye (okay it was a camera) finally captured its fearful symmetry.
River otters have made a comeback in West Virginia and might be rewarded with a place on the trapping list. Generally, I think I’m pretty good at not anthropomorphizing animals, but killing otters does seem a good deal like killing preschoolers. But I’ll harden my heart.
(While I was researching this post, my girlfriend stumbled upon a wonderful tongue-twister: “otter article.” Enjoy!)
Frank Leslie’s Boy’s & Girl’s Weekly, March 2, 1867
Most in the conservation world know nearly by heart Aldo Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Moment,” featuring what Bill McKibben called “the key Damascan Road story of American environmental conversion.” The pioneer of game management-cum-wildlife ecology recalls when he “was young…and full of trigger-itch,” reflecting:
Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen edible bush and seeding browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.
Taking nothing away from Leopold, I was delighted nonetheless to discover the following passage—similarly prescient about conservation biology and ecological niches —in Herman Melville’s The Confidence Man, published (and set!) on this day in 1857. The narrator, surveying the St. Louis waterfront, spots a
peddler [who] hawked , in the thick of the throng, the lives of Meason, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River county, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulations, and is so to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.