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8th Annual Earth Day Event at the Garden Plots April 21st

Why We Respect Earth Day

Any graduate of the Naperville Public Schools will tell you that Earth Day was begun to foster greater environmental stewardship. At the same time, if you graduated much more than a decade ago, it is quite possible that Earth Day was viewed as a fringe celebration, one that was poorly understood and equally poorly defined; something that happened between Easter and Mothers Day, but without the day off.

The WSGPC first begin to celebrate Earth Day because our mission of protecting the West St. properties from development coincides nicely with the founding principles of Earth Day. Just exactely what were those founding principles? To answer that question here is a slightly edited essay written by former Senator Gaylord Nelson, who is widely credited with being the founder of Earth Day.

"In 1993 the American Heritage magazine called the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, 'one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy…'. Actually the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political limelight once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour. All across the country, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing everywhere, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me-why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public we could generate a demonstration that would force the issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970, there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and I invited people to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air-and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two of my staff members managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

It was obvious that we were headed for a spectacular success on Earth Day. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my US Senate office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquires, etc. In mid-January, three months before Earth Day, John Gardner, founder of Common Cause, provided temporary space for a Washington D.C. headquarters. I staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes as coordinator of activities.

Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.---written by Senator Gaylord Nelson, edited by George Bennett.