April 22, 1970 Philadelphia, Fairmont Park. Ground Zero - Earth Day.
I was 14 years old. I told my parents that I was going to a “science fair” that my science teacher was also attending. That was sort of true. It was about science, right? And my science teacher was attending. Just not with me.
I arrived at the breakfast table in the tie dyed shirt I had crafted the night before and was promptly told to go upstairs and change into “normal clothes”. So I did what any self-respecting teenager would do. Went upstairs, changed my clothes and stuffed the shirt in my homemade hippy bag. Off I went.
Arriving late, we had to park a mile away, so even though we missed The March, we walked some of the route along with other latecomers. We arrived at the park to a sea of people. Amazing. Estimates ranged from 20 to 40 thousand. We settled into our tiny piece of lawn and got to know our neighbors.
People were walking through the crowd handing out bags of “food”. I opened mine to find a slice of bread and an 1/8 cup of uncooked white rice. There was a note that stated “if every single person on the planet shared the existing food supply, this is what we would eat each day”.
Senator Edmund Muskie was on stage calling for “an environmental revolution”. He was criticizing government priorities, which was spending “twenty times as much on Vietnam as we are to fight water pollution…”. Sound familiar?
Up until this point, I had lived in a bubble that was my parent’s world. This day, I saw the world that I wanted to be a part of - every age, every size, every color, every, everything - all coexisting in cooperation. We were full of hope and belief that we could make a difference.
Looking back I realize the first Earth Day had nothing to do with climate change. It was all about the simple idea that we needed to change our attitude toward the land we lived on, the water we drank and the air we breathed - that we needed to show respect for the very basics that we depend on for our own survival and that remains our truth today.
For a little more history of Earth Day click on this, Earth Day History.