Environmental movement continues to grow and change

A movement that took off as a global initiative in the 1970s to address concerns about the state of the world’s land, rivers, lakes and air, has continued to grow and change year-after-year.

According to the late U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin, the founder of Earth Day, the seeds were actually planted earlier. Initial ideas in the 1960s primarily focused on shining a bright light on environmental problems and issues via government initiatives. The effort got a slow start, but Nelson continued his own crusade right up until the early 1970s when the timing was right and it caught fire and went “global.”

According to Nelson, who later hired Camas native Denis Hayes to serve as the original national coordinator of that first Earth Day in April 1970, the idea worked because people mobilized from the ground up.

“Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grass roots level,” he once said. “We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.”

And every year for the past 40-plus years, just as Nelson had intended, the concept of Earth Day has served as the inspiration for the organization of a variety of events around the country, both small and large, that focus on taking care of our environment and using all of our resources wisely. Each celebration addresses issues that impact the community where it is held.

This can be said for several of the local events marking Earth Day 2012. In Washougal, a cleanup of Capt. William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach will be held Friday. In downtown Camas, another grass roots effort took shape initially as an idea to spruce up the downtown mall. It snowballed into an event on Sunday that will include the combined efforts of local leaders, city government, business owners and employees, students, school administrators and others.

With these and other efforts, Clark County residents will join the global environmental movement that today involves hundreds of countries and millions of people — all working to make our own little corner of the world just a little bit brighter.

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