In 1969, as the Vietnam War raged and humanity's first steps were taken on the moon, a United States senator visited an oil spill off the California coast. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, was so moved by the devastation he called national attention to America's fundamental need for an environmental conscience. Up until this time, Nelson had unsuccessfully attempted to interest his colleagues in the country's increasingly alarming levels of environmental deterioration. After witnessing the Santa Barbara oil spill, Nelson turned to American citizens who were concerned about basic needs like clean air and water. Nelson called for people to organize a teach-in day to discuss environmental problems and formulate solutions. He called it Earth Day.
Nelson encouraged a grassroots approach with local events coordinated by local people. College students, who had inspired Nelson with their effective anti-war protests on campuses across the country, were eager to help. Media outlets enthusiastically spread the word and a year later April 22, 1970 marked the first Earth Day. A simple idea exploded into 20 million people participating in events across the country. Congress adjourned for the day so politicians could give speeches and join the festivities. Citizens made it clear that the environment was important – and their representatives listened.
From conservative President Richard Nixon down, politicians responded with a cascade of environmental reforms and legislation. From the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency to the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air and Water Acts, environmental policy flowed out of Washington. The decade of the environment was born.
The day after Earth Day, the New York Times reported, “Conservatives were for it. Liberals were for it. Democrats, Republicans, and independents were for it.” The environment was a common cause, an issue all people shared. Over subsequent years, Earth Day spread to other countries, and by the thirtieth anniversary of Earth Day hundreds of millions of people in 184 countries participated. “The environment was seen as an issue that bridged generational, political, and social gaps,” Nelson later wrote in his book ‘Beyond Earth: Fulfilling the Promise.’
After leaving the political arena, Nelson served as Counselor of the Wilderness Society and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to a civilian. American Heritage Magazine called Earth Day “one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy.”
Earth Day 2017 comes at a time marked by troubled political clashes around the globe. Conservatives and liberals cross swords over myriad issues, but regardless of political leanings we all share the same land, water, air, and human need for natural beauty. In total, over 1 billion people across the world participated in Earth Day events this year, including those of us shooting for the Earth Day Photo Project. This compilation of images represents some of the most beautiful and wild places on this Earth. Let us celebrate them in honor of Earth Day!
We drove for 6 hours to be at our favorite place, Glacier National Park, at sunset for Earth Day. Overcast skies at Lake MacDonald threatened to make a colorless sunset but at the last moment the sun shone through! I jogged along the shore to reach this leaning Cedar Tree and got there just in time to capture this image.
I had gone out early to photograph the sunrise over Mt Bay from Battery Rocks in Penzance. It was a perfectly still morning and the tide was still fairly high, so I couldn't get down onto the rocks.
I wanted to capture the moon, which kept disappearing behind the clouds, and also the water over the isolated rock. A long exposure of 30 seconds enabled me to create a sense of calm by smoothing the water and also meant I could photograph the moon as it reappeared periodically from behind the clouds.
As it was Earth Day, I went to Duncansby to capture a picture of the Stacks as they are local and well known, not that I ever need an excuse to go there. It was looking poor but after the walk, there were short breaks in the clouds and as always the stacks delivered. As the sea was slightly choppy, I used a 6ND filter to help smooth the out the water movement.