The Story of Earth Day: Oceans, Activism and a Senator

Posted by: Kelsey Schueler

Earth Day is one of our favorite holidays for many reasons. Not surprisingly the best reason is because celebrating the Earth is really about celebrating our oceans. Why? Because 70% of Earth, the blue planet, is covered in oceans. The ocean also drives weather, holds over 96% of the Earth’s water, and provides half of the oxygen we breathe each day. Without the oceans, there wouldn’t be whole lot to celebrate on Earth Day.

In fact, a love of oceans was one of the primary catalysts for the very first U.S. Earth Day back in 1970. While the UN deserves credit for coining the idea of an Earth Day first, in the United States it was Senator Gaylord Nelson who started Earth Day with his . Against the backdrop of the anti-war movement, Senator Nelson was moved to action by the Santa Barbara oil spill off the coast of California in 1969. The impact of the spill on the ocean not only moved Senator Nelson, but also helped to redefine the American environmental community.

This event is the largest oil spill off the coast of California and is surpassed only by the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon-Valdez spills. The spill, which lasted for days and caused a massive loss of marine life, sparked a renewed fervor in the emerging West coast environmental movement. Heightened media attention bombarded an audience of social activists with images of the tragic results of the spill, galvanizing a new media and environmental movement. This activism produced not only the first Earth Day, but ultimately helped to create some of our cornerstone environmental policy including the EPA and the Clean Water Act. In many ways, the media, activists, and other actors created a window of opportunity that was ripe for an ocean champion in the Senate.

It is important to remember that Earth Day’s founder, Gaylord Nelson, was a Senator. Maybe he would be an ocean champion today! Without smart, passionate politicians fighting for our oceans in Washington it is impossible to take all that activism and awareness and turn those windows of opportunity into actual policy change.

Date Posted: April 22, 2013 @ 12:23 pm Comments Off

0 Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time. You must be logged in to the Circle of Champions to comment.