50th Earth Day 1970-2020
22 April 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day, which was organized in the United States on 22 April 1970, helping to launch the environmental movement. It was initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson after he saw the environmental damage from the Santa Barbara oil spill on the California coast the year before, and was organized by a group of young activists in Washington, DC. Twenty million Americans took part.
Maria Ivanova, a leading expert on global environmental governance, has written a recent analysis of the significance of that moment in The first Earth Day was a shot heard around the world. She shows how it led to the first major environmental laws in the United States, as well as to the organization of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972, which established the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). That will be another 50th anniversary to look forward to.
IEF President Arthur Dahl participated in the Earth Day events in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, where he was a Visiting Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. He volunteered to be a speaker, and was assigned to the Walt Whitman High School in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from Washington. There was a student Earth Day assembly with a large audience, where he spoke on environmental problems such as air and water pollution and their world solutions. In particular, he described his first-hand experience with the Santa Barbara oil spill, after a leak from the sea bottom during offshore drilling sent large volumes of oil and tar onto the beaches for weeks in 1969. He was finishing his doctorate in marine biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara at the time, and participated in the initial studies there of the impact of oil pollution on coastal ecosystems.
Santa Barbara oil spill 1969
He then represented the Bahá'í International Community at the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, and then moved to the South Pacific Commission in New Caledonia as Regional Ecological Adviser to all the Pacific Island governments for a decade. After organizing the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, he finished a long career in the UN Environment Programme, as well as helping to found the International Environment Forum in 1997. The IEF will then be celebrating its 25th anniversary in the same year that UNEP commemorates its 50th.
See also BahaiTeachings.org
Last updated 22 April 2020