Remembering Earth Day on April 22

Jerry Apps
Sen. Gaylord Nelson's words are still relevant 50 years later.

With all the bad news, I remember what happened 50 years ago that for me was uplifting and forward-looking. The year was 1970. The previous fall I had written my first book, The Land Still Lives, and my publisher and I asked Gaylord Nelson, a Wisconsin U.S. Senator at the time, to write a foreword to my book, which he graciously did. (The Land Still Lives has recently been re-published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.)

I was teaching at the UW-Madison at the time. I was in the audience on the evening of April 21, 1970 when Senator Nelson introduced the idea of Earth Day, which would be celebrated on April 22. The gathering was at the Stock Pavilion on the Ag Campus — and it was packed with people.

Here is a bit of what he wrote in the introduction to my book: “Today, the crisis of our environment is the biggest challenge facing mankind. To meet it will call for reshaping our values, to quality on a par with quantity as a goal of American Life.

“It will require sweeping changes in our institutions, national standards for goods we produce, a humanizing of our technology, and close attention to the problem of our expanding population.

“Most of all it will require that people assert their right to a decent environment that they evolve an ecological ethic of understanding and respect for the bonds between people and their planet."

This is what Senator Nelson said 50 years ago, and can be said today.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS:. Sometimes it’s important to be reminded of something that happened a long time ago, which is still vitally important today.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to