The Vietnam War, desegregation, nuclear disarmament—there were so many issues demanding attention in 1969. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was dismayed by the degradation of the environment, but how could he convince his fellow legislators to act to save it?
After a major oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, he was invited to speak at a conference in Berkley. While flying in, he read an article about college teach-ins protesting the war in Vietnam. Nelson said, “It popped into my head. That’s it! Why not have an environmental teach-in and get everyone involved?”
That idea was the seed of the first Earth Day.
Here’s Senator Nelson speaking at a rally in Milwaukee on the first Earth Day.