Polk County DFL prepares for ‘typical’ Earth Day event
On April 22, 1970, across America many folks went outside to do their part to end the worsening pollution of our land, water, and air. Some marched and protested with signs, some picked up trash along shorelines and roads, some held rallies for the earth, sang songs, and signed petitions, It could be considered the beginning of the environmental movement.
It was Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin who thought up the idea of an Earth Day to get folks motivated across the country to get the message out about caring for the earth in meaningful ways. One in ten Americans participated on that first Earth Day.
Polk County Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Unit board members look back on historical Earth Day events and share some of their own personal and professional experiences surrounding the movement:
• Marsha Odom--”51 years ago I was teaching 2nd grade in Fayetteville, Arkansas and taught a brief science lesson on Earth Day about what can happen when the air is “bad”, the water is “bad”, the land is “bad” and we learned the word POLLUTION. Then we spent 30 minutes outside on school grounds collecting trash that we brought inside. After we examined what we had found, we sorted the trash into categories like paper, cardboard, plastic, cloth, and metal. Then we learned from our Weekly Reader how some things could be chopped up, heated up, and made into something useful again. We learned the word RECYCLING. For the rest of the term we continued to learn about how each of us can take care of the earth where we live and play, and then we learned the big word ENVIRONMENT.”
• Cynthia Ansbacher--”At home every day was Earth Day. We were taught to conserve electricity by turning off the lights, shutting the doors and winterizing the home before winter. We were taught to recycle paper, metals, glass, cans and plastics. My mother was careful to reuse items that could be reused. 'Waste not, want not' was a common phrase in our household. We would always pick up garbage on our walks to and from church. It felt good to see how much better the areas looked after they were freshened up. I wish every day was Earth Day.”
• John Walters -- “Growing up we often were involved with highway cleanup. We were tempted by Pop Bottles. They were worth two cents each. We would take gunny sacks and pick up the bottles along the busiest roads where people in cars would often litter the ditches. Often a parent would drive along and we would put the bottles in the trunk of his/her car, and they would haul them to the supermarket and we would put them in wooden crates of 24. While collecting the bottles we also put trash in bags provided by the highway department. These we put by sign posts and culverts to be picked up by the Hwy folks. Sometimes we made quite a bit of money, and we cleaned up the ditches at the same time. We earned badges for the Boy Scouts and completed projects for 4-H for this also.”
• Kip Fontaine -- “I grew up on the banks of the Clearwater River and the shores of Maple Lake, but it wasn't until I was 13 or 14 that I saw my first Bald Eagle. It was at Lake Andrusia near Bemidji. At that time, our national symbol was in danger of becoming extinct due to the widespread use of certain pesticides. Through federal and state legislation, those poisons were outlawed and the eagle population rebounded. Now, our children and grandchildren can enjoy the majestic flight of these magnificent birds nearly everywhere in Polk County. Other animals and birds, including trumpeter swans, black bear, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, once rare or endangered here, I can share with my five grandchildren due to conservation efforts. I also vividly remember the public service announcement from the 1970s featuring the Native American Chief with a tear running down his face as he surveyed a landscape of pollution, garbage, and smog. The founders and advocates of Earth Day envisioned a different American future, i.e. one where our natural resources are valued and conserved for future generations.”
• Shauna Reitmeier and Denny Jacobs -- “Being outdoors plays a large part of where we find enjoyment, connection to nature and self care. Two activities important to us are Geocaching and Hiking. Both of those have a motto about preserving and taking care of the environment where we tread. With Geocaching, its "Cache In Trash Out" so if you see garbage along the way pick it up and remove it. The same with hiking, "Leave Zero Trace'' stay on the path, pack out any garbage brought with you and pick up any garbage you see along the way. By picking up the garbage we are protecting the natural flora and fauna while making it more beautiful for the next person and for generations to come. This is a simple thing everyone can do to practice Earth Day EVERY DAY!”
• Former University of Minnesota Crookston faculty member -- “At the Crookston campus the initial activity of the first Earth Day by students and staff was an organized campus clean-up including the adjacent road and highway ditches. This campus activity was a part of a more comprehensive education effort of searching for solvable environmental problems and beginning plans for developing solutions. Initially students were excited about searching for and exposing issues. However, getting beyond superficiality, it became critical that the education include basic science, social responsibility and participation in the political process. Many students have gone on to identify and solve environmental problems.”