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San Clemente Journal

Publisher's Message - April 2019

Feb 26, 2019 10:19AM ● By Don Kindred
by Don Kindred

With nightly televised
news from Southeast Asia to Woodstock to the moon, 1969 was an interesting time to be 12-years-old. There was this worldwide, youth-led cultural revolution going on that was subtly shaking up the planet like a foreshock to an earthquake. Even in grade school we could feel it, like electricity.  

In a very short time, music and mainstream fashion had taken a dramatic turn to the left. Crew cuts had gone away with button down shirts and hair grew passed the collar. Rolled up jeans grew into bell bottoms and music, well, music got loud. Good, but loud.
Of course, the war hung over us like a dark cloud. Brothers and neighbors were checking their draft cards waiting for the call to fight, and possibly die, for a cause they didn’t necessarily believe in. 

Vietnam had made the peace sign a controversial symbol of hope. We scrawled it on our Pee Chees even before we understood what it meant. But while millions protested the war across the country, a half million people were entertained for four days on farmland in upstate New York, overcrowded in the rain and the mud with little food or facilities. Woodstock ended without violence .... peace and love became a legitimate alternative. 

Oh, and an American walked on the moon.

I have long believed the most historic event of the year was when the first color pictures were published of the earth from space. It provided a dramatic perspective of just how small we are, how alone. Perhaps it is no coincidence that in 1969 an activist named John McConnell was among those who proposed a day to honor the “earth and the concept of peace” for the first day of spring, 1970. 

Others took up the cause, but humans had begun to understand what their collective impact on the planet was doing. Of course not everyone noticed, some still don’t, but in the west Anaheim neighborhood of my youth, smog days were common. The sky turned a hazy tan and running outdoors was hazardous to your health, prohibited in fact, confining us to our classrooms. Big, gas-guzzling cars were considered a sign of prosperity. Nobody was familiar with, let alone practiced, recycling. Factories pumped pollutants into the air, lakes and rivers with few legal consequences. 

It was a time for change.

As a result, a rare political alignment was achieved and Earth Day 1970 began gaining support.  Twenty million Americans, one in ten of our population at the time, participated in the first Earth Day; not only Republicans/Democrats, but people from all walks of life; rich/poor, city dwellers/farmers, tycoons and labor leaders, and more. And by the end of the year, that first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Earth Day is celebrated worldwide now.

Things have changed, if for nothing but awareness. Regardless of what anyone feels about “global warming,” we all have to answer the question of how we can sustain our lives on this lonely little planet without threatening the lives of our children and future generations.

Read Editor Anne Batty’s feature on the history of Earth Day.