My History of the First Earth Day
Saturday, 19 April 2014 00:00  |  Written by Amy Kaplan | Blog Entry

Hippies Door Sign photo by Todd HuffmanYou’ll forgive, I hope, my recurring theme of aging. Since passing my 50th birthday, I am now considered old, like my mother, who is indeed getting on. I am not as aged as her and never will be—until I am. However, I have been around long enough to remember events that date me and make me “old."

I don’t feel I’m really a Baby Boomer, although I have lived in the shadow of that generation all my life and am classified as one. Therefore I’m considered old and a has-been. Bye-bye. All this is to say that I remember the first Earth Day held in the United States.

I recall both what I was doing that day and why. I thought, young as I was then, that the day was an amazing event and I wanted to do whatever I could to participate in it and be a part of history.

I was living in a small town in Ohio in those days. My mother was a nominal hippie and she invited a troupe of real hippies to come to our house and park their converted bus. They were traveling around the country encouraging people to celebrate the first Earth Day, teaching about recycling—a very cutting edge idea then—and promoting free love and LSD. I hated those people with their sex and drugs. But I loved their promotion of saving the environment from industrial destruction. I still do.

My mother loved them. Life at home was chaos and I had to get out of the house. So, for Earth Day, I organized a group of my friends to go and pick up garbage at the railroad tracks. We spent all day doing that. The local paper came and took pictures of us. They interviewed me, the organizer.

As part of the interview, I made an impassioned speech about how wonderful it was that we now had a day to celebrate the earth and to teach us to take care of it. I said that’s what my friends and I were doing by picking up the trash and hoped that people would pick up their trash everyday and not just on Earth Day. I talked about how taking care of the earth had been a concern of mine since I was a small child, when I wrote letters to Congress asking them to protect the Redwoods and Glen Canyon. (Redwood National Park was created. Glen Canyon was flooded and Edward Abbey wrote The Monkey Wrench Gang about that.)

I felt proud of my accomplishments that day and enjoyed the attention I got; best of all, I was out of the house all day until late at night, avoiding the hippies. After that day, I never officially observed Earth Day again except that taking care of our real world has been lifetime devotion for me. Too bad I often feel I have to hide my memories and pretend not to be as old as I am. But I fear I’ll lose stature if I tell my stories like I have here.

What do you remember about the first Earth Day? And are you willing to expose your age and yourself by telling your story? Please comment below about your experience of the first Earth Day or any memorable story from any subsequent Earth Day.

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Comments (2)add
Written by kristaf , April 17, 2010
Believe it or not I first heard about Earth Day from MTV, when I was about 10 years old. I vaguely still remember Downtown Julie Brown talking about water conservation in the midst of some kind of street party. All I knew about the issue then is how right it sounded and how much I wanted to help.

I think it's often a struggle as an adult to remember how inspiring it was to try and make a difference at that age, instead we get bogged down in feeling bad about the state of things. So for me, Earth Day is a reminder that we can all re-invigorate that spirit of "hey, we can do this!" It could even be fun!
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Written by Liz Amason , April 17, 2010
LOVE your story !! I wasn't conscious of the environment at that age and my Mom was VERY old fashioned ;-)
You're story is inspiring !!
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