Last week, while attending an event to support an organization I volunteer for, I had the privilege of shaking the hand of Denis Hayes, the man responsible for coordinating the first Earth Day in 1970. On April 22 of that year, an impressive 20 million people were said to participate across the country. It boggles the mind to imagine how a skeleton crew of volunteers – passionate as they were – could turn out such crowds, all without the aid of the Internet, much less social media. While I didn’t get to ask him personally, I can only imagine the occasion he was so instrumental in launching must inspire a mix of pride and bewilderment 43 years later.
In 1970, students, parents, labor leaders, politicians, rich people and regular folks galvanized around a common concern for the environment and turned out for thousands of teach-ins and community events. On the most modern medium of the day, “Today” devoted 10 hours of coverage to Earth Day. Back then, remember, there were just 4 channels! The modern environmental movement had been launched.