News Flash: NBC Today Show – “In Jamestown, New York the Kiwanis Club arranged to dump 20 tons of sand in a downtown area to show just how much dirt falls on just one square mile of the city during just 30 days of maximum pollution.” The date was April 22, 1970, and Today Show news anchor, Frank Blair, was announcing the nation’s first Earth Day, the birth of the modern environmental movement. Jamestown was a trend setter…on the cutting edge.
Earth Day 2013 returns this year on Monday, April 22. It will be celebrated again in Jamestown, but in a different way at JCC on Wednesday, April 24. The annual event, called Earthfest, will be held between 11 am and 2 pm. No less dramatic than a ton of sand, but more environmentally friendly, will be a tree seedling adoption, music and interesting local and exotic flora and fauna and educational displays.
The first Earth Day came at a time in American history remembered by some as “the height of the hippie and flower-child culture.” Americans were only beginning to hear the environmental alarms after Rachel Carson’s 1962 bestseller, Silent Spring sold 500,000 copies in 24 languages. Earth’s air and water, apparently, could no longer magically absorb the world’s sludge, smoke and leaded gasoline fumes.
Jamestown’s Kiwanians in 1970 were in the vanguard of environmental consciousness, rejecting the common notion that “air pollution is only the sweet smell of prosperity.” Student protests against the Viet Nam war, however, were also in the air at that time and the new Earth Day Movement took some of its own energy from those same activist times. The planet’s ecosystem was under attack; that war had to be stopped too.
This year, the Audubon Society of Jamestown, with their own vital interest in preserving and improving the natural environment, observed Earth Day once again with their 2nd annual Volunteer Day on Saturday morning, April 20, at the Audubon Center and grounds, 1600 Riverside Rd in Jamestown. “We are very thankful to Cummins Jamestown Engine Plant for their sponsorship of this year’s event,” said Ruth Lundin, Audubon’s president. Industries and citizen volunteers have formed strong partnerships locally and around the world in the wake of Earth Day celebrations.
Earth Day founder, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, had seen the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He realized the public outcry at such devastation could make environmental protection a new political force in the nation. Senator Nelson, Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, and national coordinator Denis Hayes immediately assembled a country wide staff of 85 to promote the first Earth Day in 1970.
Twenty million people took to the streets, parks, massive coast-to-coast rallies and on thousands of college and university campuses on that first Earth Day. Jamestown’s “Ton of Sand” was recognized across the nation as a remarkable element in the rare and powerful new political alignment. Among the first results were creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
According to www.earthday.org, “Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders…” all worked together to make Earth Day a reality in the fight against destruction of the country’s environment. By 1990, Earth Day had gone global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries.
The Chautauqua County Legislature, this month, in recognition of the many local citizens and civic groups with a deep commitment to a clean and safe local environment and its economic value to the region, have passed a proclamation (see box) that will help encourage a month of Earth Day cleanup activities across the county.
Anyone who drove the county’s highways and byways 30 years ago wouldn’t have been blamed for thinking a good living could be made simply collecting bottles by the roadside. Today’s environmental consciousness, however, has not only helped beautify our local scenery, but actually created profitable new businesses. Redemption Centers, like the fine businesses reported on page 2 of this edition of the Gazette, cooperate with citizens to serve the cause of Earth Day all year long.
For Earth Day 2010, the event’s 40th anniversary, according to the Earth Day Network, Earth Day brought 225,000 people to the National Mall in Washington, DC for a Climate Rally, amassed 40 million environmental service actions toward its 2012 goal of “A Billion Acts of Green®,” launched an international, 1-million tree planting initiative with Avatar director James Cameron and tripled its online base to over 900,000 community members.
Though not specifically billed as an Earth Day event, this year’s Hands On Jamestown Community Cleanup on May 18 reflects the same spirit and puts the promise of a clean and shiny Jamestown into the hands of every citizen. “It’s a blast spending a day with a thousand of your closest friends outdoors, all around town,” one of last year’s enthusiastic participants said. Registration is available online at www.jrconline.org or by calling 664-2477, x-226.