April 22, 1970 was the first celebrated Earth Day. Inspired by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, 20 million people worldwide–including myself–decided it was time the environment and the planet got some recognition and protection.
Earth Day originated in my home town of Philadelphia. A collection of students, professionals, businessmen and grassroots organizations gathered in different sights around the city to make our statement. My group gathered in Fairmount Park. It was hosted by Philadelphia’s ecology guru and “head hippie”, Ira Einhorn, an outspoken advocate for flower power, peace, free love. Austan Librach, Chairman of the 1970 Earth Week Committee of Philadelphia also delivered an inspirational message. That day they helped give the Earth a voice.
Close friends, new “brothers and sisters” and myself were mezmerised by the words and music of all who appeared on stage. One after the other…Edmund Muskie, Ralph Nader, Allen Ginsberg and numerous others inspired us. I still remember Richie Havens singing. “Freedom…Freedom…Clap Your Hands…Clap Your Hands…” All sixty thousand in Fairmount Park rose to our feet and and we were sure our thunderous applause could be heard around the world.
At the age of seventeen in 1970, I must admit I wasn’t the most aware and worldy person. But this mission, this plea, was a simple concept to grasp.
This first Earth Day led to the creation of the EPA later on that year. We must have done something right.
In 1990 I attended the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in New York City’s Central Park. At this event more than a million of us gathered. Then it happened. I couldn’t see the stage through the mass of humanity…but I could hear. “Freedom….Freedom…Clap Your Hands…Clap Your Hands…”