I remember my first Earth Day, which was also The first Earth Day. There was a big lead up to it. Our teachers had us make poster size drawings appropriate for Earth Day. I have no recollection of what I did. But, I do remember putting an air quality measuring device in my back yard and turning it in at the firehouse and getting the building next door busted for burning bad heating oil. I was also armed that summer with a plastic card that I could use to measure smoke quality. I’d wear the card around my neck and go around the city, and whenever I saw a smoke stack belching smoke I’d hold the card up and estimate the percentage of particulate matter using the card. Then I’d get the address of the smoke stack and fill out a report and turn it in somewhere.
I think that was the same year that the Albany Billiard Ball Factory burned down and exploded multiple times, spewing more toxic crap into the air than the entire city had been spewing all year. Which tells us something: Don’t let your freakin’ factory blow up, man!
Anyway, as a kid, I was already into the environment owing to the influences of Rachel Carson and, more locally, Robert Rienow, but Earth Day certainly increased my interest and involvement. I started a club, called the Nature Conservation Club, or the NCC, and made all my friends and family join it. I even got Pete Segeer to join!!! And I wrote letters and continued turning in smoky factories and carrying out interventions (regarding littering behavior).
I think that is the main function of Earth Day: To be a focal point to garner effort and resources in the educational setting to bring kids on board with, well, saving the Earth. Earth day helped make conservation a basic issue simply by getting the kids involved so that as they grew up they thought differently about conservation than many of their parents had.
Earth Day: It worked!