Earth Day, Cowgirl Poetry, Richard Nixon and the EPA

Since 1970, Earth Day has always been observed on April 22.

A Brief History of Earth Day

Earth Day was the idea of Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, who came up with the idea in 1969, as a way to promote environmental awareness on a planetary level. In April 1970, the first celebration of Earth Day occurred with the majority of activities, occurring on college campuses and in large urban areas in the U.S. A year later, not only did President Nixon give Earth Day official recognition, but he made April 22 part of Earth Week.

Earth Day is still celebrated today, as over the years, the global challenges have changed and environmental legislation is nowhere as universally popular as it was back in the 70s.

The President and “the King” in 1970

Richard Nixon: Our Greenest President?

Richard Nixon was not much of a cowboy, but as an environmentalist, he did pretty good, signing 14 pieces of Environmental legislation during his tenure.This little known fact about our 37th president may come as a surprise to many political observers of that era, especially since he showed little or no interest in environmental issues before becoming president.

Nixon began his environmental legacy in 1969 by signing into law The National Environmental Policy Act, which created environmental impact statements.

Then in 1970, Nixon proposed and pushed through Congress the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, which was quickly followed by the Clean Air Act and the creation of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration}.

By the time Nixon resigned in 1974, he had also passed the Clean Water Act (1972), the Endangered Species Act (1973), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (actually signed by Ford in 1974).

Yes, folks that’s quite a legacy.

Cowboys and Environmentalists

Today, the rancher (and the Cowboy) have their backs against the wall financially, as they face increasing pressure from a changing world to their way of life.  Loss of grazing land is just one challenge, as other threats can come from growing populations in the New West and the a new kind of activism arising from radical environmentalists.

Nonetheless, the Cowboy poets are thriving, as larger audiences thirst for the old storytelling skills of bygone eras. Even though these modern-day bards may be out of sync with the urban reality of rap and slam poetry, they have caught the attention of many, who have never saddled a horse or roped a calf.

Sometimes Cowgirls Don’t Get the Blues

Today, cowboys and cowboy poets are generally pictured as having a close relationship and understanding of the land. However, in today’s complex world, they do not seem to be overly concerned about global warming or climate change.

Perhaps, this attitude is best summarized by Nevada poet and rancher, Carolyn Duferrena.

A Cowgirl Contemplates Climate Change

by Carolyn Duferrena

I have to say it’s kinda nice
Not to spend the winter
Chopping ice,
And to tell you the truth
When I wake up in the morning
The last thing on my mind
Is global warming.

 

Final Note

This blog has been also posted at my alternative site, Bluefoxcafe, which can also be found at WordPress.com. I am currently undertaking an experiment to determine which place gets more traffic.

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The Earth Has Changed But Earth Day Remains the Same

Earth Day flag_PD
The Original Earth Day Flag as designed by John McConnell

 

Earth Day’s Popular Beginning

Earth Day was first proposed in a United Nations UNESCO meeting by John McConnell in the fall of 1969. By spring 1970, the American event had become a reality with Earth Day celebrations occurring across many US cities and campuses. The largest celebration occurred in NYC, where Mayor John Lindsey, closed several major thoroughfares and as a result over a million people flooded Central Park to partake in the festivities.

Earth Day was assigned to late April so as not to conflict with Easter, Passover or Spring Break
Earth Day was assigned to late April so as not to conflict with Easter, Passover or Spring Break

Why April 22? 

From the  U.N. meeting, the original concept was picked up by Gaylord Nelson of the U.S. Senate, who envisioned the holiday as an environmental teach-in on American campuses. The late April date was chosen, so as not to conflict with final exams, spring break or religious holidays. The first Earth Days were popular, well-attended public events that seemed like a carry-over from the sit-in demonstrations, which were so popular during the sixties. Although environmental awareness has increased dramatically, since the first Earth Day, environmental action has not kept pace. Much of the reason may be that environmental challenges are presenting themselves much faster, thus making immediate solutions difficult.

 

 

Polar bears investing the USS Honolulu near the North Pole, photo from wikipedia......credit Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy
Polar bears investing the USS Honolulu near the North Pole, photo from wikipedia……credit Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy

 

The Earth Is Changing

Even though most of the US is experiencing lower than normal temperatures for the 2013-2014 winter, it is generally believed by earth scientists that overall, the planet is slowly growing warmer. The reason for this paradox is complex, but it is generally believed among the scientific community that melting arctic ice has created a Pacific high, which is capable of redirecting weather systems through Canada before they drop into the United States. These unusual global events are prime material for an Earth Day teach-in, but co-ordinating community action to counter these problems is a much more difficult scenario.

Looking At The Earth

Earthrise; Credit:  Apollo 8, NASA
Earthrise; Credit: Apollo 8, NASA

Earth day has gone and passed, but no reason I can’t revisit the holiday and take a look at all the NASA imagery that has gone down and speculate now these pictures of earth from the great beyond might have had a picture on the unique holiday. Don’t forget earth day is 40 years old and some of these pictures go back almost as far.

Bright Sun and Crescent Earth from the Space Station; Credit: STS-129 Crew, NASA
Bright Sun and Crescent Earth from the Space Station; Credit: STS-129 Crew, NASA

Here’s a recent picture of one of the space station again courtesy of NASA. This picture kind of shows how are ability to make ourselves at home, while spinning around the earth has improved. For now there are at least a few individuals manning the beautiful yet lonely outpost in the sky.

Earth from Saturn; Credit:  Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA
Earth from Saturn; Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, SSI, JPL, ESA, NASA

And now a view of earth from Saturn taken from the Cassini space probe which is probably well on its way to Neptune. Our space probes may be reaching out, but the humans seem trapped here near the planets.

And finally we have a crescent earth at midnight.

A Crescent Earth At Midnight; Credit: GOES Project, GSFC, NASA