Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fourtieth Earth Day

I remember the first Earth Day, 1970, in high school science class, and having a discussion about what effects pollution, deforestation and oil spills were having on the environment. Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" had been published eight years earlier, and we had all just seen the first image ever taken by humans of the whole Earth, from Apollo 8 in 1968. That blue globe floating in space; it was kind of a shocker. The "Population Bomb" had been written by Paul Ehrlich, also in 1968 at the behest of David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. There was an eruption of awareness that our human civilization was becoming very destructive on a planetary scale. But nobody even thought about climate change then, or what humans could do collectivelly to avert the damage we're doing.

At the time, Sierra Club was the leading proponent of environmentalism. It established a day in honor of its own first president and founder, John Muir, born on April 21. Sierra Club's original mission was to protect Yosemite National Park. It subsequently established Muir Woods National Monument to honor him as well (photo above). National memorial dates were established such as Arbor Day on April 25, and National Park Week on April 18 -25. His writings and papers are archived at the University of the Pacific for research.

John Muir was one of the great naturalists and public activists for environmental preservation in this country. His view was that people had to understand the world through experience with nature in all of its facets. His quote: "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness".