April 2, 2013

Cambridge Science Fair Blog

A Brief History of Earth Day: a View from 28,000 Miles
by: Alex Dunn

We all know Earth Day as a day that promotes positive behavior, raises awareness for critical global issues and builds community. The first Earth Day celebrations occurred in cities and towns across the U.S. on April 22, 1970. Attributed to the support of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, those first Earth Day “protests” bottled the fire of the 1960s, bringing together students, activists, politicians and neighbors. Earth Day’s early success was so influential that it’s credited for spurring the creation of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and the Endangered Species Act.

Since that April in 1970 Earth Day celebrations have continued to serve as an annual reminder of the societal effort needed to preserve what we have. But today these events occur in the face of a society saturated with dark green gloom: global climate change, massive plastic gyres in the oceans, accelerating species loss -- the news is bleak. Meanwhile, one of Earth Day’s core concepts of “consuming less” has been usurped by commercial corporations, who “green wash” their products to sell more stuff. So what message can Earth Day promote to a population at once saturated in green washing and smothered in dark green gloom? Somewhere between burn out and burn up we must find a message of focused optimism.

Whether those first Earth Day celebrations shifted the whole country’s attention to the plight of the Earth is debatable, but on December 7, 1972 a single image taken from 28,000 miles away did just that. Snapped from the window of the Apollo 17 space craft, the iconic “Blue Marble” photograph depicted an Earth with swirling cyclonic storms, vast Saharan sands, and the full round girth of our blue, green and brown planet. Though this image was not the first image of Earth taken from space it was the most vivid and put into plain reality the limitations of the marble on which we live.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17 (link)

This year the EcoTarium will celebrate our little blue rock for being just that. Beginning on Tuesday, April 16, the EcoTarium will kick off April Vacation Week with Earth Week activities (April 16-19), culminating with our annual Earth Day Celebration on Friday, April 19. This year’s vacation week theme will be space exploration. With activities ranging from driving rovers on Mars to timing a rocket launch to get to an orbiting planet, we will unfold the complexity of space exploration and the limited beauty that is our little blue marble.

For more details please visit our website at www.ecotarium.org or visit us Tuesday – Sunday at 222 Harrington St. Worcester, MA 01604


(Blog entry written by Alex Dunn, who works at the EcoTarium, but whose views do not necessarily represent the views of the EcoTarium.)