Commentary: Reflections on Earth Day

Earth Day 1970, Philadelphia.

By Linda Hart Green

Earth Day 1970, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I only skipped school one day in high school. I was a junior. I was also a “Goody-Two-Shoes,” so I asked my parents’ permission first. The outing involved taking the train into Philadelphia. I thought they should know about that. We often went to Philadelphia as a family to go to museums and events, so they knew I knew my way around. Nor was I skipping school to go “down the shore” on a nice spring day, which was the primary reason kids in my class skipped school. Our trip was to go to the very first Earth Day celebration being held in Fairmount Park on April 22, 1970 with thousands of other area college and high school students. We learned afterward about 30,000 people were there.

It was my first demonstration. I was keenly aware of the protests in the 1960s, but only from watching them on TV. I sympathized with most of the causes, but I was a matching skirt and sweater-wearing, homework-doing, church-going, suburban teenager. A few kids I knew talked about going up to Woodstock, New York, but no one was actually brave enough to do it. At only age 15, I didn’t dare ask my parents about that! Two years later, I reasoned they would support me going to a park in a city I knew only five miles from home.

They agreed. That morning, on a bright spring day, we excitedly boarded the commuter train, changed to a subway to get uptown, and then walked the rest of the way to the park with hundreds of others streaming down the streets with signs, frisbees, and blankets to sit on.

The joy and enthusiasm of the crowd was contagious! When we saw how packed the park was, we realized staying together would be difficult. We arranged a place and time to meet to leave. We dispersed to enjoy the festival. We heard Alan Ginsberg, Ralph Nader and Edmund Muskie speak. We heard the Broadway cast perform numbers from “Hair.” I was buoyant with optimism and fellow feeling that young people were going to save the planet from wanton destruction.

I came naturally by my environmental concern. My paternal grandfather loved to boat and fish and I deeply loved him. I tried to learn everything he was willing to teach me. I did not learn how to clean a fish. I would only watch. Ew. He was appalled at the suburban sprawl pushing toward the Jersey shore as early as the 1950s. He saw developers wanting to fill in and build on wetlands. He realized the ecological dangers of such opportunism. He would rail, “Don’t they know that wetlands are nature’s sponges?” As a contractor himself, he refused any such building projects and did what he could to make his voice heard about the damage that could be caused. He taught me to love marshes and to respect the ocean. His influence is a big reason why Amelia Island feels like home to me.

Earth Day for 2024 is tomorrow, Monday, April 22. This year’s theme is “Planet vs. Plastics.” The goal is 60×40, meaning a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040 for the sake of planetary and human health. You can find out much more about the efforts in which they are involved at www.earthday.org.

I feel nostalgic remembering that exciting day 53 years ago. I am also startled to realize a day I remember so clearly was that long ago! I also feel deeply saddened by how those days of progress and optimism have been eclipsed by opportunism and greed.

Right here in our backyard, we need eyes in the back of our heads to monitor all the ways this island is imperiled! We have to carefully monitor and protect dunes, wetlands, maritime forests, heritage trees, tree canopy roads, nesting birds and sea turtles, endangered North Atlantic right whales, gopher tortoises and so much more.

I hope that caring for and protecting this fragile barrier island made up of many micro ecosystems would unite us beyond partisan politics. We have so many knowledgeable and experienced experts right here to guide us. We have many wonderful environmentally concerned groups already organized to do the work. They need our support, our time, our money, our passion and our willingness to work.

Now I hope and pray that by working alongside them, the next generation of conservation-minded young people will save the planet as we dreamed of doing so long ago.

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Candis Whitney
Active Member
Candis Whitney(@candiswhitneygmail-com)
27 days ago

Beautifully written memories, and truths for our fragile barrier island, our home, our world.
Happy Earth Day, today, and every day!

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