Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Extra! Reflections on Earth Day and those who walked this way

Critic At Large

Started 50 years ago

Earth Day image. (Neville Public Museum, Green Bay)


Fifty years from the start of Earth Day – how are we doing?

Perhaps that is an awkward question in the midst of the global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking to the bright side, the sun has come up every day in the 18,263 days since April 22, 1970.

Dawn has done “dew” diligence, so to speak.

Earth has continued its fathomless course in the universe.

This state, Wisconsin, can claim more pride in the day than most.

Here’s to Gaylord Nelson, a Wisconsin person who is credited with giving impetus to wide consciousness surrounding the day.

Wisconsin certainly is filled with natural settings – forests and shorelines (of two Great Lakes and the Mississippi River) and Horicon Marsh and rolling landscapes and winding rivers and streams.

Memory-making in the clear, clean air of northern Wisconsin continues to be an attraction for visitors.

Along with Gaylord Nelson, Wisconsin is home to two other great stewards of the land.

One of the vivid images that Aldo Leopold created in his writing is of a saw cutting through a harvested tree with time tumbling in reverse as the tree “sees” notable events.

Something about Wisconsin had to inspire John Muir at perhaps the most impressionable time in everyone’s life – ages 11 to 22, when he lived in Wisconsin.

Did John Muir at some point then say, “This is what I want to do,” and envision a leading role in protecting wilderness not for one state but all states?

Was there an acorn of thought in Wisconsin that grew to be John Muir’s towering idea for what became the National Park Service spanning 84 million acres?

For the first Earth Day in Green Bay, nature let its presence be felt. Roaring like a railroad train, a tornado tore at Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena as a program marking the day took place inside.

Water leaking through the ripped roof dripped on approximately 3,000 people at the event.

Other buildings in the vicinity were damaged by powerful wind to the tune of more than $6.5 million in today’s money.

Storms – not even a flicker of an eyelash in matters of the whole Earth and time – are a reminder of the power nature can let loose.

Earth Day is a reminder, if only of some concerned beings who walked this way and led the way.

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