50 years after he was picked by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to hastily orgainze the first earth day at age 25, Denis Hayes thinks ‘green’ is winning.
You and your team inspired 20 million Americans to take part in the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. How did you pull it off? We persuaded reporters to write about it and put our mailing address into articles. A week later, a flood of mail would come in. When we wanted to communicate, we’d mimeograph 50,000 copies, stamp them and send them out. Slow, but it worked.
And the idea really struck a chord. The response was remarkable. There was dissatisfaction with the way the nation was developing. You couldn’t see more than two blocks in some cities because of the air pollution. Places we used to swim and fish had “No swimming, no fishing” signs due to water pollution. Rivers were on fire. Breathing the air in places like Los Angeles was like smoking two or three packs of cigarettes a day. People began to think there’s something wrong.
Reaching out and fostering awareness in Earth care and concerns within the community has been what the supporting visual art projects have been about all along. Then along came covid-19 and everything was upended on its ear….so to speak…and we continue to move through the effects of so much change in our lives.
As the saying goes, “necessity is the Mother of invention” it can also be said now that it is also the “Mother of do-it-yourself” (I personally installed track lighting in my studio last week. Those three little wires coming out of the ceiling where I’d removed the old light fixture didn’t have to be so intimidating after all….given that I had already switched off the breaker.) The hardest thing was maneuvering the snake-y track and affixing it where it needed to be. Voila! New lighting to work by for this artist soul!
April 22nd is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Normally that would mean gathering together in cities across the country to demand climate justice with a series of marches, rallies, art builds, actions, and trainings. This year, however, we will mobilize for climate justice online! This Earth Day we are supporting our partners WA Youth Climate Strike who are organizing Earth Day Live, a three-day live stream from April 22 to 24 focused on demanding action on climate change, jobs, and justice. The live stream will include training sessions, performances, and appearances to keep people engaged, informed, and inspired, with speakers including celebrities, politicians, scientists, and youth activists.
With the current Stay-At-Home order due to the Coronavirus, parents house-bound with kids may be looking even harder for projects that are educational, fun, and safe. Here are some activities to start with…and links to sites for more ideas:
Premonitions of an environmental earthquake from original Earth Day national coordinator Denis Hayes
By Denis Hayes | Mar 2 2020 | The national magazine of the Sierra Club
On Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I rolled off my mattress in my shared basement hovel at 4 A.M. and walked a couple of miles down Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC, to a dim circle of light on the National Mall. There, I joined a group of Indigenous leaders, who welcomed the rising sun with chants and dances.
I had high hopes for the day—the first Earth Day. Organizers had sweeping demands for breathable air and clean rivers as well as banning DDT, halting offshore drilling, saving the whales, and removing lead from paint and gasoline. I thought we would score some victories, but I never dreamed how fundamentally Earth Day would alter the political, cultural, and economic landscape.
The enormous challenges — but also the vast opportunities — of acting on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable.
At the end of 2020, nations will be expected to increase their national commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The time is now for citizens to call for greater global ambition to tackle our climate crisis. Unless every country in the world steps up – and steps up with urgency and ambition — we are consigning current and future generations to a dangerous future.
Earth Day 2020 will be far more than a day. It must be a historic moment when citizens of the world rise up in a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery that we need to meet our climate crisis and seize the enormous opportunities of a zero-carbon future.