Thank you for visiting the new “Earth Day 1970: Out of the Wilderness” website. As we approach the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, it’s more important than ever to take a close look at the origins of this national holiday. In 2007, while helping coordinate a national day of climate action with the Step It Up campaign, I wrote my senior history thesis at Middlebury College on the organizing efforts leading up to the first Earth Day. This website contains links to that project and updated reflections on the environmental movement, the growing movement to stop the climate crisis, and the significance of the 40th anniversary of this momentous occasion.
In the About section you can learn more about the project and my background. In the Table of Contents you will find an overview of the contents of the thesis, “Earth Day 1970: Out of the Wilderness.” The Intro from the thesis is copied in its entirety on this website. And the entire thesis is available for Download in PDF format. Enjoy!
“Earth Day 1970: Out of the Wilderness” is a look at the emergence of the modern environmental movement through the lens of the first Earth Day which took place on April 22, 1970. When Earth Day first came onto the scene in 1970, it was a radical day of action: nearly 20 million people took to the street and helped birth the new environmental movement, taking conservationism out of the wilderness, retooling it with a good dose of ecology and Vietnam-era protest politics, and taking it to the streets. Since then, Earth Day has mellowed out considerably: marches replaced with trash pickups, revolution replaced with recycling. Now more than ever, as we confront difficult environmental challenges such as global warming, it is useful to look back at the successes and failures of the first Earth Day.
Jamie Henn is the co-coordinator of the international climate campaign 350.org. On October 24, 2009, 350.org coordinated over 5,200 events in more than 180 countries, what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in history.” Earth Day 1970: Out of the Wilderness was Jamie’s Senior history thesis at Middlebury College in Vermont. At the time, he was involved in organizing the precursor to 350.org, Step It Up 2007, the largest US environmental mobilization in a generation (handing in his thesis four days before Step It Up’s national day of action).