The Clarion

Library can help you mark Earth Day

Debbie Deakin, Library staff

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The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970.  The founder of this observance, which has since evolved into an annual event of global reach, was Wisconsin’s own Gaylord Nelson.

Nelson was born and raised in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. From an early age he showed an appreciation for nature and the environment. This grew over time into a deeply held conviction that our natural resources should be protected and treasured.

Gaylord Nelson served as governor of the state of Wisconsin from 1958 to 1962. He then went on to serve in the U.S. Senate from 1962 to 1980, espousing the cause of environmental protection as the signature issue of his years in office at a time when the environment as a concern worthy of national attention found few supporters in Washington.

In 1969 Nelson came up with an idea of a national “teach in” to raise awareness of environmental issues.  He enlisted the help of student activists, insisting that this first Earth Day be created by citizens and groups in communities across America, rather than by professional organizers in Washington.

“This is the time,” Nelson said, “for old fashioned political action.”

The grassroots movement that culminated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, proved amazingly effective. More than 20 million Americans from 10,000 elementary and high schools, 2,000 colleges, and more than 1,000 communities around the country participated in the effort. Labor union members, farmers, housewives, scientists, and politicians rallied together to raise awareness of environmental issues. Today, more than 40 years after the first Earth Day, over 1 billion people worldwide take part in a variety of activities in celebration of the annual Earth Day observance.

Madison College observes Earth Day in a variety of ways on the different campuses.  This year on the Reedsburg campus, instructor Mimi Wuest is purchasing trees from the Sauk County Land Conservation for each of her students to plant. Students will also spend time spring cleaning around riverbanks in the area. John Lyons, an instructor at the College’s Reedsburg and Portage campuses, plans to take his students to study environmental issues at Devils Lake Nature Center. He will also be spring cleaning with his students along highways in the Portage area.

For more information on the history of Earth Day, its founder Gaylord Nelson, or things you can do to sustain our planet and become more eco-friendly, check out the many resources available through the Madison College Libraries. For electronic resources a starting point might be the Energy and Sustainability Research Guide found under the Research tab on the library home page. The libraries also have a large number of databases that offer a variety of articles on environmental issues. Please check with staff if you need assistance with database navigation.  In addition to these resources, we also have a wide selection of books available on topics relating to the environment, conservation and natural resources. Some sample titles are: “Green Goes with Everything,”  “The Climate Diet: How You Can Cut Carbon, Cut Costs and Save the Planet,” and “The Man From Clear Lake: Earth Day Founder Senator Gaylord Nelson.”

Please join us, not only in April, but each and every day, in celebrating and protecting our planet.

Remember these inspiring words from Gaylord Nelson: “So long as the human species inhabits the Earth, proper management of its resources will be the most fundamental issue we face. Our very survival will depend upon whether or not we are able to preserve, protect and defend our environment.  We are not free to decide about whether or not our environment matters. It does matter, apart from any political exigencies. We disregard the needs of our ecosystem at our mortal peril.”

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Library can help you mark Earth Day