Friday, April 30, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
From the Writer's Almanac and the Composer's Almanac: written and produced by Garrison Keillor:
Today is Earth Day. And it's also the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day — held on this day in 1970 and widely considered to the birth of the modern environmental movement.
Earth Day's founder was a senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson. His goal was to force environmental issues onto the national agenda. Before 1970, stories about the environment were almost never reported. One Earth Day organizer said that back then, "Environment was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news."
In 1969, an oil pipe ruptured just off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, causing 200,000 gallons of crude oil to burst forth and then slowly leak out and spread over an 800-square-mile slick. It took 11 days to plug the hole. The oil poisoned seals and dolphins, whose corpses washed up onto California beaches, and it killed thousands of seabirds as well. Senator Nelson visited the site of the enormous ecological disaster and was outraged that nobody in Washington seemed to be concerned about the great devastation to the natural environment. And then he realized that many people simply didn't really know.
So he proposed a national "teach-in," an event to take place on universities campuses around the nation, one that would educate the public, raise awareness on environmental issues, and make politicians pay attention to these things, so that they would make laws to protect the environment in order to, as he said, "stem the tide of environmental disaster."
He saw how successful the anti-war protestors were at getting media coverage — and therefore, making politicians take notice — and he decided to base his campaign for environmental awareness on their model. He also hoped to infuse the same student anti-war energy into the environmental cause. He proposed setting aside one day a year as a national day of observance about environmental problems. The New York Times picked up the story in late September 1969, a great boon to the grassroots organizers of the campaign, who had no Internet to spread the word.
At first, Senator Nelson called it National Environment Teach-In Day, but his friend, a New York advertising executive suggested "Earth Day," especially catchy since it rhymes with "birthday," and that's what the press began to call it. Historian Adam Rome has called Earth Day the "most famous unknown event in modern American history."
About 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. They gathered at assemblies in high school gyms, at university plazas, in suburban city parks. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Gaylord Nelson had graduated from law school, people met up at 4:45 a.m. for an "Earth Service," where, according to one report, they "greeted the sunrise with a Sanskrit invocation and read together from Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Thoreau, and the Bible." Girl Scouts distributed pamphlets that Wisconsin grad students had written, which gave household tips for helping to preserve the environment. Tens of thousands met up in Philadelphia's Fairmont Park — and stayed there for days — and 100,000 streamed into Fifth Avenue in New York City. People celebrated spring weather and gave impassioned political speeches about environmental issues.
Though unstructured and somewhat incohesive, Earth Day was hugely successful. Environmental issues found a prominent place on the political agenda. Earth Day in April 1970 helped lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency by the end of that year (the EPA was created December 2, 1970), as well as to the passage of legislation like the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.
oday is Earth Day -- an annual event started in 1970 by then-Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin as an environmental teach-in.
Senator Nelson wasn't the only one concerned back then, either: the Czech-born composer Karel Husa had noticed dead fish floating on a lake located near a power plant. "The plant was producing hot thermal pollution which in turn killed all those fish," Husa recalled. "In addition, I noticed more beer cans in the water and algae in greater quantities."
A wind band commission provided Husa with an opportunity to create a work he called "Apotheosis of This Earth." In explaining its title, Husa wrote:
"Man's brutal possession and misuse of nature's beauty -- if continued at today's reckless speed -- can only lead to catastrophe. The composer hopes that the destruction of this beautiful earth can be stopped, so that the tragedy of destruction -- musically projected here in the second movement -- and the desolation of its aftermath -- the 'Postscript' of this work -- can exist only as fantasy, never to become reality."
"Apotheosis of this Earth" was commissioned by the Michigan School Band and Orchestral Association, and its premiere performance took place on April 1, 1970, with Husa himself conducting the University of Michigan Symphony Band at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. It proved a powerful piece of music.
"As the 'Postscript' finished," recalled the composer, "I saw that the students in the band were somehow moved -- there were even some tears."
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Activist and writer Bill McKibben has written several pertinent books e.g. The end of nature, the age of missing information and latest Eaarth. I also liked the list of books he recommended reading recently: Collected essays by Wendell Berry, Desert Solitaire Edward Abbey, Richart Nelson Heart and Blood, Gary Snyder Practice of the Wild, Lester Brown Plan B and Terry Tempest Williams Refuge. These are all powerful voices with brilliant prose.