Earth Day and Dennis Hayes – Where it all Started
I recently spoke with Dennis Hayes, primary organizer of the first Earth Day, and I was surprised and refreshed by his candid and downright honest comments. Environmental issues have been trendy and scoffed at, enlightened at times, steeped in rhetoric at other times, lauded, dismissed and ridiculed. The issues have fueled political campaigns, ignited the dreams of tree-huggers and frustrated the agendas of international conglomerations.
As an experienced journalist, I've spoken with Harvard researchers, celebrities, larger than life political figures and more than enough shady characters - some behind bars and others that perhaps should be. But meeting someone I've admired most of my life is humbling - and a little embarrassing. When I started to gush, Hayes said, "Please don't tell me you've been following me since second grade."
I didn't tell him, but he was right - I was once a tree-hugging little green gorilla and thought I could save the world by reducing, reusing and recycling. Thirty-seven years after the first Earth Day and iconic status in the offing, I asked Hayes if he considered the future when organizing that first event.
"We didn't expect that there would be an earth day in 1971, much less in 2007," Hayes said. "It was a one blow-the-door-off-the-hinges event, and then we'd move on with our lives."
What surprises Hayes today though is the strength of grassroots movements still catching fire across the country in the absence of federal guidance.
"Even as Bush has taken his particular stick your head in the sand kind of approach, cities like Seattle have issued the climate change challenge and more 450 cities are coming up with policies to meet their Kyoto obligations. We're taking the first steps in the right direction until we get some national leadership."
All this week, I'll be posting parts of my conversation with Dennis Hayes and tracking what people are doing across Canada and United States to individually and collectively make change happen. And if you've been following Steve Shriver's trek across Iowa or read about 41 pounds, you know that any change is good - no matter how small or how large.
Al Gore says what's happening in the world today like a nature walk through the book of Revelations. Call us environmentalists, outdoor adventure travelers or little green gorillas, but we Nomadik Fanatiks are 100% committed to preserving the beaten and not-so-beaten paths of this world.
Want more? Read Part Two