16 March 2009

I remember the very first Earth Day. Ever.

I remember the very first Earth Day. Ever. I was in 5th grade. My teacher’s name was Anne Pier.

I went to a public, experimental, elementary school. It was free, liberal, and exhilarating. We worked at our own speed, with individualized attention from teachers who wanted to be part of this new way of teaching (which, unfortunately, does not exist in any place I know of anymore).

Before coming to Ames, Iowa, Mrs. Pier had taught school to children in immigrant farm worker camps in California. She told us about those children many times. Girls with no dolls. Boys with no bikes. Moms and Dads doing back-breaking work in the fields while the crops could be harvested.

I adored Anne Pier then and still do now.

Mrs. Pier was an inspiring force. She gave us the freedom to organize and take action. For months, we planned for the first Earth Day the planet would experience. We learned about littering. We studied about how air and water pollution occurs and what the consequences are to plants, animals and human life. We learned that the health and life of this Earth is our responsibility.

Yes, we knew all of this in 1970! Erin Brockovich was a year younger than we were. This was before Al Gore started presenting his slide show and before his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” was produced. We knew these things when we were in 5th grade, before it was cool and hip to talk about pollution and global climate change.

April 22, 1970 was a day full of activity. As soon as the bus dropped us at school, we hiked to the arboretum and picked up trash. We fished garbage out of the stream. We gathered litter from the ground.

Keep in mind that we had lived the first 10 years of our lives in the 1960s – think Woodstock, Black Panthers, Watts riots, women’s lib, Viet Nam, the Apollo program… counter culture – so we knew the appropriate action for almost every situation that felt unjust… a demonstration.

We made huge signs and waved them in the air. We marched. We yelled. We were covered by local television. My friend and classmate, Lisa Paulsen, read our prepared statement on camera. We pleaded for adults to save the environment for us, their children – the future.

We felt our endeavors were very successful. But now that I’m a grandmother, I wonder.
Did anyone really listen to the children that day?

Let’s clean up this planet and protect its future for our children. And for our grandchildren.

Let's continue to defend the Earth. Please, remember Earth Day.

Note, did some rewriting and reposted 4/9/09. Audio version is posted here.

No comments:

Post a Comment