An Evolving Environmental Story: The Highs and Lows in Earth Day’s 45-Year Existence


April 22, 2015, will mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day’s founding. Rachel Carson’s 1962 work Silent Spring, which exposed the harmful effects of chemical pesticides on the environment, fueled a growing momentum of environmental rights activists and preservationists concerned about the plight of Earth’s natural resources. [27]

In 1969, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson brought voice and vision to a grassroots environmental awareness movement that would become Earth Day. “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam,” noted a November 30, 1969, New York Times story. [16]

And yet clear cutting of forest land continues. The burning of fossil fuels has not let up. Millions of gallons of oil have entered our waterways. The timeline shown here is evidence enough that successes and setbacks continue to be a part of this environmental story.

Earth Day shouldn’t be a one-day commemoration. Think of Earth Day as a continuing conversation of environmental stewardship, a core value of the curriculum at Vermont Law School. It’s your turn to lead. What will you say and do to positively impact our environment?

An Evolving Environmental Story: The Highs and Lows in Earth Day’s 45-Year Existence

When Earth Day founder and former U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson passed away in 2005 [11], his legacy was that of a participatory movement that continues to advocate for environmental awareness and protection. Earth’s Day evolutionary story is filled with highs and lows of preservation triumphs and setbacks over the decades.

[LIST IN DATE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER ON A LARGE TIMELINE GRAPHIC; consider putting a symbol on the timeline representing the historical event with a reference section keyed to the corresponding text description.]

1. April 22, 1970: Twenty million Americans from coast to coast take part in the first national demonstration for environmental awareness. (Show a U.S. map with people graphics in a rally-like environment spread across the map.) [1]

2. December 2, 1970: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is founded. [2] (Show a rendering of the EPA logo.)

3. April 22, 1971: The Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful launch an environmental awareness PSA featuring “The Crying Indian,” Iron Eyes Cody. [3] (Show a poster rendition of the PSA, see resource 3 link)

4. August 12, 1971: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, a children’s book with an environmental theme behind it, is published. [4] (Show a graphic rendition of The Lorax; see sample at

5. April 7, 1978: U.S. President Jimmy Carter directs emergency financial aid assistance to New York State to purchase the homes of 236 families affected by a toxic waste site at the Love Canal. [5] (Show houses next to barrels with poison labels on them.)

6. March 28, 1979: A partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania, occurs. [6] (Show a graphic rendition of a Three Mile Island cooling tower.)

7. September 16, 1987: Twenty-four countries sign the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer and agree to place controls on ozone-depleting substances. [7] (Show a pen next to a document with the words Montreal Protocol displayed at the top.)

8. March 24, 1989: Oil tanker Exxon Valdez strikes a reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, pouring 11 million gallons of crude oil into the water. [8] (Show an oil tanker spilling out oil from the ship’s body.)

9. December 10, 1997: Julia Hill ascends Luna, a redwood tree in Humboldt County, California, to protest clear cutting of forest land by Pacific Lumber Company. After a 738-day-long standoff, the company concedes to a preservation agreement. [9] (Show a redwood tree with a graphic of a person sitting on one of the branches.)

10.  February 16, 2005: The Kyoto Protocol, directed at reducing greenhouse gases in 41 countries and the European Union, comes into force. [10] (Show a smokestack with clouds of smoke coming from the top)

11. October 12, 2007: The Norwegian Noble Committee honors Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with a Noble Peace Prize for their climate change awareness efforts. [12] (Show a graphic of a Nobel Peace Prize award.)

12. December 7-18, 2009 [13]: An unsuccessful Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen results in a failed effort by world leaders to negotiate a binding agreement on climate change. [14] (Show a group of people sitting around a conference room table leaving their seats on opposite sides of the room with a contract-looking document laying in the center of the table.)

13.  September 23, 2014: Leaders from the international community gather at the United Nations headquarters in New York for a one-day Climate Change Summit aimed at discussing methods of lowering carbon dioxide, methane, and greenhouse gas emissions.(Show smoke bands wafting through the air.) [14]

14.  April 22, 2015: How will you commemorate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day? #globalcitizenearthday (Go with typography on this one and make the date and the hashtag stand out.) [15]


10 Tips for Living Earth Day Every Day

1. Figure out your ecological footprint. (Show a footprint with a graphic of a globe embedded in the footprint.)
Head to to find out how many planets it would take to support your lifestyle. [17]

2. Get growing with a community garden. (Show a vegetable garden surrounded by a fence.)
Produce your own produce; find a garden near you at [18]

3. Plant a tree. (Show people digging a hole and planting a tree.)
Trees boost property value, regulate temperatures in your neighborhood, and offer food for area wildlife. [19]

4. Eat foods that are in season as often as possible. (Show a dinner plate with fresh vegetables on it.)
The journey of out-of-season food from commercial farm to dinner table is often 1,300 miles. Eating in season is not only fresher, it’s better for the environment. [20]

5. Be particular about the packaging. (Show a pile of Styrofoam containers and plastic water bottles.)
Pay attention to food packaging. What you buy to eat is just as important as what containers your food comes in. [21]

6. Shop around for sustainable products. (Show a shopping bag with a recycling logo on the front.)
Prepare to make better buying decisions before you start your shopping. Check out for product reviews with an environmental perspective. [22]

7. Overcome obstacles to get outdoors. (Show a hand opening a house screen door with a view into a backyard.)
Make time each day to get outside — no excuses. [23]

8. Compost it! (Show a compost fork and compost in a compost bin.)
Composting is a great way to use organic materials, such as lawn clippings, leaves, and select kitchen scraps, to benefit your plants and soil. [24]

9. Engage in trash talk. (Show a person about to throw an object into a trash can with another person holding up a hand with the stop signal.)
No mean language here: Instead, talk with friends and family about ways to reduce what they toss into the trash. [25]

10. Get at Congress for clean energy. (Show the U.S. Capitol dome with letters coming out of envelopes stuffed into a mailbox in front of the dome.)
Let your voice be heard: Write to your congressional representative and voice your concerns about clean energy adoption in the U.S. [26]

Caring for the environment and conserving Earth’s natural resources requires citizens around the globe to think about the impact they are making on their parcel of this planet. What is the environmental legacy you wish to cultivate?














[13] (for date reference only)















This entry was posted in Energy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply