Earth Day: Then, Now and What the Future Holds

Tulsa Master Recyclers Association

THE BLUE MARBLE:  This photograph was taken on Dec. 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft at a distance of about 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) from Earth.  Now known as The Blue Marble, this was the first image of our planet in its entirety and helped the world unite in working towards peace and protecting our environment. 

Courtesy NASA/Apollo 17 crew

Earth Day, April 22, is a commonplace date for you and me that came about thanks to the passionate men and women of the late 1960s and early ‘70s and .

At our culture’s peak in social activism, true environmental protection laws were nearly nonexistent. After years of struggling through governmental avenues, Senator Gaylord Nelson correctly read the social atmosphere as ripe for appealing, instead, to the public. He designated April 22, 1970, as a “national day for the environment,” and hoped at least a few people would join him in learning how better to protect our planet. More than 20 million Americans participated that day, which in turn encouraged voter-hungry politicians to take notice.

First Photos
Bookending the first Earth Day, in 1968 and 1972 came the Apollo missions to the moon. As written by Dr. Christopher Riley, these feats of human ingenuity and skill brought back images that grabbed the nation’s attention towards peace and environmentalism.

Put yourself in that time and place before digital media, before the feeling of connectedness the Internet brings us, before selfies; imagine seeing your planet in its entirety for the first time, as a glimpse over the shoulder of the moon, or as, “The Blue Marble,” which roused people into the concept coined by American Poet Archibald MacLeish that we’re all “riders on the Earth together.”

Earth Day went global in 1990 with 140 countries participating. In 2000, more than 180 countries participated. Chicago made a big splash on Earth Day 2007, with festivities at Lincoln Park Zoo drawing more than 40,000 people, a single-day attendance record, as reported by Shannon Younger. To see the far-reaching impact of what so much interest can create, log on to for a timeline of environmental milestones. Milestones that couldn’t have been attained without so many of us showing support for protecting the Earth.

Looking Ahead
In 2014, more than a billion people in 192 countries took action for Earth Day. So, let’s look to our upcoming Earth Day, Tulsa County!

An easy tip for getting your green started is by logging on to This website can help you choose action steps such as online activism or local campaigns or helping out with school projects, such as Oklahoma Green Schools.

You may remember my June 2011 column on Webster High School earning its flag as well as earning the school thousands of dollars in energy savings, thousands in grant dollars and reducing their cafeteria waste by 75 percent…all through simple tests and planning that the students accomplished with provided assistance from members. Learn more at

Final Thoughts
Writing this column got me to thinking about this: Who is our modern-day Gaylord Nelson? Maybe it’s not any one person, but it’s our collective voices coming together under this one, great cause. Maybe it’s our collective dollars supporting those fighting to protect Oklahoma waterways. Maybe it’s our collective emails, tweets and posts calling for action that overturns the current tax on solar panel installations in our state.

Whatever the many solutions, it does take all of us staying engaged and involved, continuing to shine a light on the importance of protecting our Big Blue Marble. We do only have one.

Send in your favorite activist, lobbyist and politician’s name so that we can learn more about what they’re doing, and how we can support them. I’ll look for your thoughtful opinions at or on Twitter @TrashTalkTulsa.

Updated 03-14-2015

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