Intent of Earth Day must not be forgotten

Jerry Apps
Earth Day began in Wisconsin thanks to Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson.

Earth Day began in Wisconsin. Gaylord Nelson, a humble man from Clear Lake, Wisconsin suggested grave consequences for the future of this country if something was not done, and done quickly about the mounting environmental challenges that he saw in the 1960s. Senator Nelson organized Earth Day, which was held on April 22, 1970.

On that April day in 1970, I sat in a jam-packed Stock Pavilion on the University of Wisconsin Campus in Madison and heard Senator Nelson proclaim the necessity for all of us to not only become more aware of the environmental problems the nation faced, but to do something about solving them. To push our lawmakers toward passing legislation to correct the errors of the past and assure they would not occur in the future.  

In a rare moment of solidarity, Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, young and old became convinced that nature could no longer be ignored and the environment taken for granted. Thousands agreed, including many lawmakers, that major action must be taken to stop air and water pollution, to save endangered species from extinction, prevent indiscriminate use of pesticides, commercializing wilderness areas, and a host of other concerns.

In an introduction to my book, The Land Still Lives, Senator Nelson wrote, “Today, the crisis of the environment is the biggest challenge facing mankind. To meet it will call for reshaping our values, to put quality on a par with quantity as a goal of American Life.”

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Earth Day, April 22, is a day we must continue to celebrate.

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