Gaylord Nelson lived a long and fruitful life. Unlike some other notorious Senators who kept going back to DC despite obvious senility, he retired to tend his own gardens and to write and think. His legacy is all around us, if you love nature. He had the foresight and the political will and the scientific understanding about our planet earth and nature and how we must live. He was an inspiration to us all.
Many people date the environment movement from 1969 when the men landing on the moon turned and looked back at the most beautiful planet in the universe, our delicate, multicolored, odd shaped colorscheme earth. Radiant and lovely, a jewel in the dark night.
But it didn't start there at all. My personal point of reference is "Silent Spring," the great book warning us about destroying the habitat and prey of song birds. Our campaign to kill bugs was killing many other important things.
But it is earlier than that! For my godmother, Josephine Michener, was a well known bird watcher, bander and writer who taught me as a very small child to understand the language of birds. She didn't need a study to tell her chickadees have a complex language, she talked with them all the time, engrossed in the conversation. She lived in LA since the Civil War and watched it turn into the toxic soup of the late fifties. She retreated into her fabulous bird sanctuary which was turned into a parking lot when she died.
I was not alone in being enraged at the progress of destruction of our world. Even microworlds like the greed dome of towering bamboo and fruit trees that was Josephine's home couldn't exist along side the mega machine eating up our air, water and land.
From the NYT:
Gaylord A. Nelson, one of the architects of America's modern environmental movement who as a United States senator from Wisconsin founded Earth Day to protest degradation and launch a national legislative campaign to improve stewardship, died today in at his home in Kensington, Md. He was 89 years old,Note that not only was he a wonderful pioneer in the environmental movement, he was one of the very few sane, thoughtful, truthful people in DC! He was a true hero, standing up for reality when everyone was being driven to war by a hysterical press and hyperpatriotic posturing by mostly cowardly men not intending to fight. Some of Congress fought in WWII and thought all wars were WWII. They were obviously wrong here.
The cause was cardiovascular failure, Bill Christofferson, Mr. Nelson's biographer and a family spokesman, told The Associated Press.
A liberal Democrat, Mr. Nelson was known for his candor and independence. He was just one of three United States senators who voted against the $700 million appropriation that began the nation's expanded involvement in the Vietnam War.
WWII wasn't about defending democracy or we would have given our own minorities at home basic civil rights. We didn't. Not even after the war! This had to drag on forever before civil right were guaranteed to our own citizens. And WWII didn't give it.
But they shoved and pushed for a war to spread democracy even though we really aren't all that enthusiastic about democracy. We are lucky the war votes were not 100%. By the skin of our teeth, one or two hold outs exist for each war.
But it was Mr. Nelson's lifelong devotion to the natural landscape that distinguished him as one of Capitol Hill's early and ardent environmental leaders. On March 25, 1963, in his first Senate speech, he framed the declining condition of the nation's air and water as a national issue. "We need a comprehensive and nationwide program to save the national resources of America," he said. "Our soil, our water, and our air are becoming more polluted every day. Our most priceless natural resources - trees, lakes, rivers, wildlife habitats, scenic landscapes - are being destroyed."Ah, Gaylord had Kennedy to work with! And LBJ: his dear wife, Lady Bird, was Gaylord's sponsor and friend and she enthusiastically embraced his ideas and pushed them forwards in her own way. I appreciated her efforts even back then, her billboard clean up campaign directly improved the vistas out in Arizona a lot. She was a blessing.
The speech coincided with Mr. Nelson's private effort to successfully lobby President John F. Kennedy to embrace environmental protection as a priority. In September 1963, Mr. Kennedy embarked on a five-day, 11-state tour to talk about conservation.
On a speaking tour in the West in 1969, Mr. Nelson came up with a new idea for what he called "a huge grassroots protest" modeled after that era's campus "teach-ins" to oppose the Vietnam War. At a conference in Seattle in September, Mr. Nelson announced that the protest would occur the following spring. April 22, 1970, a Wednesday, was chosen as the best date.I remember the first earth day! We did an organic veggie/bread baking/free range chicken egg thing! It was a blast! Our commune had a small feast prepared and we showed how easy it was to make and grow things in the city, even.
More than 20 million Americans marked the first Earth Day in events ranging from dragging tires and old appliances out of the Bronx River in White Plains, N.Y., to campus demonstrations in Oregon. Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York closed Fifth Avenue to vehicles. Congress shut its doors so lawmakers could participate in local events. Legislatures from 42 states passed Earth Day resolutions to commemorate the date. Mr. Nelson called it "one of the most exciting and significant grassroots efforts in the history of this country."
"The reason Earth Day worked," Mr. Nelson said, "is that it organized itself. The idea was out there and everybody grabbed it. I wanted a demonstration by so many people that politicians would say, 'Holy cow, people care about this.' "
If there is a heaven, Gaylord is there and he is surrounded by grateful birds, singing full throat, a symphony of avian joy.
For joy is what we should feel today, remembering our great teachers of the past. Joy and thanks. Thanks forever!
&hearts &hearts &hearts
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