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Professor Emeritus Bill Moomaw Reflects on the 51st Earth Day

"We are all being asked to take a leadership role and change the destructive trajectory we are on."

William Moomaw is Emeritus Professor of international environmental policy and founding director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Fletcher. 

 

Imagine you are a 25 years old graduate student, and a U.S. Senator calls to ask you to organize a nationwide event.  He wants you to encourage college students to demonstrate for the protection of the environment. That is the call that graduate student Dennis Hayes received 52 years ago from Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring had alerted Americans to growing degradation and pollution, and the public was increasingly concerned, but national political leaders were not interested. Nelson’s insight was to go to the people by mobilizing the campus activism on behalf of Civil Rights and the ant-Vietnam War movements with “campus teach-ins.” Hayes pulled together a team, in which he was the oldest member, and they managed to create a distributed organization that lead to the first Earth Day in 1970.

The idea was so popular that it spilled over into demonstrations by the general public. On April 22nd, Earth Day 1, 20 million people – 10% of the US population - participated. Thus began The Environmental Decade.

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