October 02, 2014 10:25 UTC

USA

Pictures Connect People for Earth Day 2013

The story of how Earth Day came to be.

Planet Earth
Planet Earth

Multimedia

Play or download an MP3 of this story
From VOA Learning English, welcome to This Is America. I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
 
And I'm Mario Ritter.  April twenty-second is Earth Day. Former United States Senator Gaylord Nelson started the observance in nineteen seventy. The aim of this day is to urge local action and increase awareness about the state of the world’s environment. The creation of Earth Day is widely considered the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
 
Gaylord Nelson was a Democrat from the state of Wisconsin. He had always been interested in environmental issues and worked hard to improve the environment in his state.  The American public was also increasingly becoming aware of the huge environmental problems the country faced.

In 1969 two environmental problems caught the nation’s attention. The first was a huge oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. More than eighty thousand barrels of crude oil from the spill severely damaged over sixty kilometers of coastline. The second was increased news reporting about a river so polluted that it caught on fire. This was the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio.
 
Senator Nelson knew there was growing public concern about the country’s polluted air, rivers and land. He had been searching for a way to make the environment a subject of interest to all the country’s politicians and leaders. He had observed that students at colleges across the country had been organizing “teach-in” demonstrations to protest the war in Vietnam. He realized that this “teach-in” method would be a useful way for the public to express concern about the environment to federal and state officials.
 
In September of 1969 Senator Nelson announced his aim to create a national version of an environmental teach-in. The idea immediately received wide popular support from students, teachers, religious leaders and other community groups. It was so popular that his Senate office alone could not deal with the many responses.
 
So, Senator Nelson created an independent non-profit group called Environmental Teach-In to help organize what would become an environmental revolution.
Gaylord Nelson talks to reporters during an environmental conference in 2001, in Oshkosh, WisconsinGaylord Nelson talks to reporters during an environmental conference in 2001, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
x
Gaylord Nelson talks to reporters during an environmental conference in 2001, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Gaylord Nelson talks to reporters during an environmental conference in 2001, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Gaylord Nelson hired a student and activist named Denis Hayes to lead this special campaign. The aim was to get people young and old across the United States to act locally in solving environmental problems in their areas. Senator Nelson did not want the campaign to be about the changes and actions he wanted for the environment.

The movement was to be driven by the American public on a “grassroots” or local level. It was to be an event not just supported by students. Women, labor unions, religious groups, political groups, scientists and environmental organizations would also support the event.
 
The planning for a national protest on the environment soon began to receive national media attention. The Environmental Teach-In group began to educate people about how to take action locally and spread the news of the event. The group stated that the national day for the environment would be “more than a day of fruitless talking.” And, they created a new name for their national teach-in event: Earth Day.

The hard work of this grassroots effort resulted in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. An estimated 20 million people took part. In New York City, Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic as people marched through the streets. At demonstrations in Atlanta, Georgia, and Miami, Florida people gathered to demand a cleaner environment.

Gaylord Nelson later said that “Earth Day worked because of the immediate response at the grassroots level.” He said that the event organized itself.
 
Lawmakers in Washington seemed to have understood the public demand for a cleaner environment. In December of 1970, a new federal agency began its work.
The Environmental Protection Agency aimed to bring together federal research, supervision, and enforcement of environmental matters. By 1974 several other environmental laws had been signed. These include the Clean Water Act, the Pesticide Control Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Earth Day has spread well beyond the United States. This year, organizers estimate that one billion people around the world will observe Earth Day. The event is one of the largest civic observances on the planet.
 
A nonprofit organization called Earth Day Network, based in Washington, DC, helps promote many Earth Day events.
 
Susan Bass is the senior vice-president of programs and operations at the Earth Day Network. She says Earth Day is still very much about activism and fighting for the environment on a local level.
 
The theme for 2013 is “The Face of Climate Change.” The Network’s 20,000 partner groups are helping spread the word. Franklin Russell is the director of Earth Day for the Earth Day Network.
 
“We had a couple photos come in from India recently, from students who were using recycled plastic bags to make pots for their plants. We had a bunch of people take to the streets in Bulgaria to protest deforestation and to demand that the government start taking action.”
 
Franklin Russell says his group is collecting thousands of pictures from social media for The Face of Climate Change campaign at earthday.org.
 
“The key is engaging as many people as possible… to take a photo of themselves, depicting either the impact of climate change or even some of the solutions that they are engaged in, share it with us and allow to build this really impressive digital mosaic that we can share with the world and influence change.”
 
That mosaic appears as a digital wall of photos. VOA reporter Rosanne Skirble calls it “mesmerizing.” She says you can stop on a photo, click to turn it over, and read more on the back. Then, you can join a live Twitter feed to comment on what you see.
 
One of the photos shows a young girl named Stephanie. She is on a glacier in New Zealand. She comments that warming temperatures have made it impossible to climb some icy peaks.
Mountaineer Stephanie Groen stands by a deep crevasse on a glacier in New Zealand, where she worries about signs of rapid ice-melt. (Courtesy: Stephanie Groen)Mountaineer Stephanie Groen stands by a deep crevasse on a glacier in New Zealand, where she worries about signs of rapid ice-melt. (Courtesy: Stephanie Groen)
x
Mountaineer Stephanie Groen stands by a deep crevasse on a glacier in New Zealand, where she worries about signs of rapid ice-melt. (Courtesy: Stephanie Groen)
Mountaineer Stephanie Groen stands by a deep crevasse on a glacier in New Zealand, where she worries about signs of rapid ice-melt. (Courtesy: Stephanie Groen)

Another photo shows women in Kenya. They are learning to use new kinds of cook stoves. The stoves are more efficient, less polluting, and safer to operate.
 
A third photo shows Sarah Vant. Ms. Vant is an educator with a group in England called EcoActive.
 
“Well, the picture is a picture of me and my friend Polo here. Polo is my polar bear puppet.”
 
Polo helps Ms. Vant talk about solutions to environmental problems. They also talk about the dangers we face.
 
“If I talk about the polar bears, he might get a bit sad. Or if a child comes up with a brilliant idea for saving energy or reducing the emission waste that their family might be using, he might get really excited and maybe do a little dance.”
 
Another face on the mosaic belongs to a 75-year-old woman in a refugee camp on the border between Thailand and Burma. She is carrying a solar panel to put on the grass roof of her house.
 
“We are the face of climate change because we are proud to have the first solar-powered refugee camp in the world.”
 
That’s Iona Proebst. She is the executive director and founder of the Branch Foundation. The foundation helps people in South East Asia, includes Burmese refugees. Some of those refugees have been living in a camp without electricity.

Ms. Proebst says the solar panels have changed daily life at the camp. For instance, students’ grades have improved. People are no longer getting hurt in fires. And refugees are saving money on lamps and candles. Those savings mean they can buy better food. Ms. Proebst says the solar panel project has given many refugees renewed hope.
 
“I think it sets an amazing example of a small amount of dedicated individuals wanting to create sustainable change. They are probably in terms what you might think of renewable energy a kind of unlikely suspect. Yet it has worked fantastically well in terms of the benefit.”
1. All homes on the Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border have solar panels, making it the world’s first solar-lit refugee camp. (The Branch Foundation)1. All homes on the Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border have solar panels, making it the world’s first solar-lit refugee camp. (The Branch Foundation)
x
1. All homes on the Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border have solar panels, making it the world’s first solar-lit refugee camp. (The Branch Foundation)
1. All homes on the Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp on the Thai-Burma border have solar panels, making it the world’s first solar-lit refugee camp. (The Branch Foundation)

One goal of the Earth Day Network mosaic is to connect people around the world. One person commented on pictures of children planting trees. Ngong Edwin Nkainin says, “These children are climate change advocates. Imagine what one hundred children can do.”
 
Or, on Earth day, what one billion people can do.
 
I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
 
And I’m Mario Ritter. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Learning English.


This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: BIJU.P.Y. from: SOUTH INDIA
04/23/2013 7:31 AM
'It is not important what the Earth has done for you, but what you have done for the mother Earth. How poets have long been making outcries for keeping the Earth at her sweet seventeens. But some mindless selfish industrialists and invaders have made her nude through deforestration and thereby pierced her virginity. My wild inhanbitants of rare animals were put to fire, they plundered her for personal gains. This is brutality in the worst sense of the word, unknowingly digging our own grave. The new endeavours are most welcoming, worth copying and above all, soothening. Thank you.


by: Darci from: Brasil
04/23/2013 12:29 AM
I'd like to know if you please, send me the singer's name for
It's not easy being green...
Thanks
Darci
São Bernardo do Campo, S.Paulo
Brasil


by: Alex Smith from: Russia
04/22/2013 6:13 PM
Endangered Species Act is a very good act. There are plenty of roads. There are a few spaces for animals in wild. Who knows what may be in the future without lovely animals. Do we become like robots? We need to think about comfort future and about the Nature.


by: quangquynh from: VietNam
04/22/2013 5:22 PM
amazing, former i pessimistic about environmental conllution of my country, but now dont, because everybody try them best to protect Earth


by: Alex Smith from: Russia
04/22/2013 4:56 PM
Endangered Species Act is a very good act. There are so many roads. There are a few spaces for animals in wild. Who knows what may be in the future without lovely animals. Do we become like robots? We need to think about comfort future and about the nature.

Learn with The News

  • A pro-democracy activist shouts slogans on a street near the government headquarters where protesters have made camp in Hong Kong, Oct. 1, 2014.

    Audio Protesters Call for Hong Kong Chief to Step Down

    Also at least 10 people were killed on Wednesday when shells hit a school playground and a minibus in Donetsk, Ukraine. And, U.S.-led airstrikes hit near a key Syrian border town for a second day, as Kurdish fighters defend the area from Islamic State militants. | In the News More

  • South Koreans march during a rally 100 days after the ferry Sewol sunk in Seoul, South Korea, July 24, 2014.

    Audio Ferry Investigation Divides South Korea

    South Korean lawmakers have agreed to launch a new investigation into the deadly passenger boat accident in April. But many people are not happy with the measure. Other citizens protest a second investigation. More

  • Ebola Dallas Hospital

    Audio First Ebola Case Reported in US

    An unidentified person has brought Ebola into the U.S. from Liberia. This person is being treated. Those he or she came into contact with are being closely watched. More

  • Mercedes Garcia of El Salvador fills in the application for her new ?green card? while waiting in a predawn line outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service office on Wednesday, March 20, 1996 in Los Angeles. Wednesday was the deadline to apply for

    Audio US 'Green Card' Lottery Registration Begins

    The US government’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes 50,000 visas available every year. The program is designed for people from countries that have “historically low rates of immigration to the United States.” | As It Is More

  • Carter Elections

    Photogallery Former US President Jimmy Carter Turns 90

    He won the Nobel Peace Prize and served as Georgia’s governor and as a Navy officer. Former peanut farmer, former nuclear engineer now works as a human rights activist. Liked and disliked around the world. He has written 26 books and is writing more. | As It Is More

Featured Stories

  • Children exercise during a weight-losing summer camp in Shenyang, Liaoning province, August 3, 2009. Obesity is becoming one of the biggest threats to children's health, a nationwide investigation has warned, pointing out that students' physical indicator

    Audio Physically Fit Children Do Better in School

    Several studies found that children who had physical activity on a usual basis improved in school. The children also learn best if physical activity is included during class or before. | Health Report More

  • Union and Confederates troops clashed on July 21, 1861 near Manassas Junction, Virginia.

    Audio Manassas Ends Hope for a Short War

    Many northerners wanted Union forces to seize the new Confederate capital and quickly end the rebellion. Pro-Union newspapers urged, "On to Richmond!" But the North soon learned it needed a better trained army to fight the Confederacy. More

  • Singer Lorde performs at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada May 18, 2014.    REUTERS/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES  - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)  (BILLBOARDAWARDS-SHOW) - RTR3PR0U

    Audio Lorde Releases Single for 'Hunger Games' Soundtrack

    The 17-year-old New Zealander is curating the soundtrack. The album is to be released a few days before 'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One' opens November 21st. | American mosaic More

  • The US is a nation of immigrants. But China is a nation of ... Chinese.

    Audio US, China: A Look at Immigration and Migration

    The U.S. and China have the two largest economies filled with opportunities and jobs. In 2013, a Pew study found that 45 million international migrants lived in the United States. Yet only “850,000 people living in China were born in other countries.” More

  • Artist conception of ISEE-3 in space.  (ISEE-3 Reboot Project)

    Video Citizen-Scientists Take Control of Old Satellite

    Former NASA engineer helps group get information from a satellite that was launched in the 1970s and had been silent for years; giving an old satellite a new mission. | As It Is More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs