I spent the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, in the best possible place: in the park. It was a Wednesday, and no, I was not playing hooky. My junior high school science teacher decided to mark that sunny April day by leading the entire class, after lunch, to the park across the street from our school. He then let us enjoy the entire afternoon there. He was a remarkably enlightened individual. (Today, of course, he would be fired for doing that. But there were unions back then, so he was safe.)
That was a time of incredible cultural fertility: the environmental movement, the sexual revolution, civil rights, women's liberation, decolonization, space exploration, the antiwar movement . . . and the Beatles.
And if there is one image that sums up what we felt, and how we felt, on that first Earth Day and that whole time, it's the one called Earthrise: The photo that the astronauts on Apollo 8 took, as they swung around the Moon. The ur of the environmental movement.
Try to spend some time this week in a park, or in a forest, or on a beach. Take a child with you, if you can, to share the experience. And remember that, notwithstanding our vastly exaggerated differences, we all have two things in common:
- Our Humanity, and
- Our World.
"In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the Earth
Taken coming back, from the Moon.
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest
Or a highway
Or me here, least of all."
Joni Mitchell, "Refuge of the Roads" (1976).