I was teaching English in junior high school in New Orleans on the first Earth Day in 1970. My classroom was on the ground floor, with a door leading directly into a yard. So, on Earth Day I took each of my classes outside. We gathered in the shade of an oak tree, and discussed the importance of taking care of the environment. I honestly don’t recall if I had prepared materials, or just made up my own. I know there was a writing assignment involved, and discussion of ecology, what the outdoors meant to the kids, and how it was necessary for everyone to be good stewards of the environment. It was very personal, students sharing their own thoughts and stories, and I remember distinctly a long conversation about how the crawfish weren’t as plentiful as they used to be. Mostly I remember it was a beautiful day and it felt good to be outside.
Since that time, over my fundraising career, I’ve worked with several environmental groups. Here at Impact we’ve worked with American Rivers, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society… to name just a few. The environmental movement has had great successes and grown tremendously from that first Earth Day, and I’m proud to still be a small part of that.
But it strikes me that sometimes nowadays environmental organizations are so large (as are the problems they attempt to address!) that we’ve lost that grassroots, one person talking to another quality that was so strong on that first Earth Day. I think it’s incredibly important that in our work we continue to find those stories about how changes, both positive and negative, affect individuals. Kind of like sitting under the tree talking about how the crawfish aren’t as plentiful as they used to be.
– Posted by Dinah O’Berry