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Nature / Nurture

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is the 53rd nationwide Earth Day to raise awareness of the delicate balance between human endeavor and Earth's ecosystem. Earth Day's first appearance in 1970 is often cited as

the birth of the modern environmental movement, but it really began eight years earlier.

The book that started it all

1962 saw the publication of Rachel Carson's "The Silent Spring", a warning about the effects twentieth-century industrialism and urban expansion was wreaking on environmental quality. Within weeks of its appearance, the book sold half-a-million copies in twenty-seven countries. Among the book's readers was Wisconsin's Senator Gaylord Nelson, a longtime promoter of environmental causes who was spurred to further action with a devastating blowout at an oil pumping rig off the California coast. More than 80,000 barrels of crude oil fouled the Santa Barbara channel and it beaches for months, killing shore birds, turtles and other aquatic life.

The New York Times noted the first Earth Day on its frontpage

Nelson had also taken note of the energy and commitment among young demonstrators against the Vietnam War and decided to harness that same energy to promote environmental causes, convincing a fellow conservation-minded colleague, Congressman Pete McCloskey, to serve as co-chair of an organizing committee. Beginning as a series of rallies and seminars on college campuses, Nelson, McCloskey and the staff they built around the effort chose April 22nd as the first Earth Day in 1970, as it was a weekday and fell between spring break and final exams. The concept soon spread well beyond college campuses, acting as a coordinating focus for hundreds of smaller groups with similar aims.

It was an effort whose time had come, for that year later saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the passage of a raft of environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. By 1990, Earth Day had gone global, with more than a billion people worldwide participating in activities ranging from tree planting to shoreline cleanups and anti-pollution efforts around lakes and streams.

There are a host of Earth Day observances this weekend in the Charleston area. Click here for a complete list of events around Johns Island and beyond.

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