This week the world will mark the 53rd anniversary of the first Earth Day. It was the bipartisan efforts of Senator Gaylord Nelson (D, Wisconsin) and Congressman Pete McCloskey (R, California) that led to establishing a national day to raise awareness of the effects of man-made pollution on our air, land and water. April 22, 1970 saw the launch of the first Earth Day. With the help of student environmental activist Denis Hayes, Senator Nelson and Congressman McCloskey were able to form a national network of teach-ins on college campuses. Additional environmental protests, demonstrations and talks were held on a local level throughout the country. Ultimately, 20 million people participated in the day-long event.
The day galvanized a nationwide movement that had begun with the release of Rachel Carson’s 1962 book on the dangers of DDT, Silent Spring. As a direct result of the widespread popularity of the first Earth Day, a bipartisan effort in Congress led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (signed into law by Richard Nixon). Immediately after its establishment, Congress passed numerous laws and regulations not only concerning the pollution of air, water and land, but requiring remedies to clean up any aftereffects of industrial development. In 1970, there was support for these efforts across every demographic in the country.
In 1990, Earth Day went global. That day set the stage for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit. Today the United Nations remains a steady voice in advocating for environmental protections in countries large and small.
This year, an estimated 1 billion people will take part in Earth Day activities.
In honor of our shared boomer history, Mister B presents to you this Earth Day playlist of music from the boomer years.
Pollution – Tom Lehrer (1965)
Mister B still remembers this one:
If you visit American City
You will find it very pretty
But there are two things you must beware
Don’t drink the water
And don’t breathe the air
Shapes of Things – Yardbirds (1966)
A plea six decades ago is still prescient today:
Please don’t destroy these lands
Don’t make them desert sands
What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong (1967)
Envisioning a place where we all want to live, Satchmo sang:
I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (1970)
How can you not take these great lyrics to heart?
They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum…
Don’t it always seen to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Nature’s Way – Spirit (1970)
To the point:
It’s Nature’s way of telling you
Out In the Country – Three Dog Night (1970)
The lyric says it all:
Before the breathin’ air is gone
Before the sun is just a bright spot in the night time
Pollution – Bo Diddley (1971)
His guitar punctuated the lyrics:
We gotta keep America clean, honey
(We got to stop pollution)
Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology) – Marvin Gaye (1971)
Both a lament and a prayer:
Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas (Have mercy, please have mercy, Father)
Fish full of mercury (Please have mercy, Father)
Don’t Go Near the Water – The Beach Boys (1972)
Part of their environmental concept album, Surf’s Up:
Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land
Mr. Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)
A song that speaks about hope for a better day:
Mr. Blue Sky, please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long (so long)
Where did we go wrong?
Mister Boomer has posted about his personal experience on the first Day Day, and other environmental concerns. For additional reading:
Boomers Remember the First Earth Day
Boomers See Climate Change By Their Own Experiences
How about you, boomers? Did you have a connection to Earth Day or environmentally-conscious music?