At the time, Americans were guzzling gas in their huge V8 cars, factories were dumping pollutants into waterways and onto the land. Pollution seemed to be an accepted way of life.
An environmental movement was bubbling to the surface, largely the result of Rachel Carson’s best selling book, Silent Spring, in 1962. But nothing was happening on a coordinated, national front.
Enter Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. He had seen the destructive effects of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA.
It dawned on him if he could merge the energy of the widespread student anti-war movement with the slowly emerging public consciousness of environmental damage, it might push awareness of environmental protection onto the national agenda.
In a bi-partisan effort, one rarely seen today on such a polarizing issue, Senator Nelson persuaded Pete McCloskey, a Republican, to co-chair his “national teach-in on the environment.”
He recruited Denis Hayes, an environmental activist, to be the national coordinator. Click the link below to see an Earth Day 1970 interview with Hayes and McCloskey.
A tremendous success, this first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
So why am I, a fair trade retailer, writing about Earth Day? Because since the 1960’s and 1970’s, protecting the environment has been a requirement for certification as a fair trade farmer, producer, wholesaler, or retailer.
Fair trade not only works to alleviate poverty and create sustainable, fair incomes for the world’s poor, it also works to realize these goals without compromising the environment. Farmers learn sustainable agriculture methods, use no GMO’s, eliminate slash and burn techniques, and dispose of waste responsibly.
Producers and artisans give high priority to using sustainably managed raw materials. They reduce, reuse, reclaim and recycle materials whenever possible. Use of chemicals in production processes is non-existent or minimal.
Even I, as a retailer, must protect the environment when doing business. I reuse packaging materials when I ship orders, use gift boxes and bags manufactured with recycled paper, and even the smallest scrap of paper gets tossed in my recycle bin.
#1 in a series about fair trade and the environment in celebration of Earth Day 2014.