American Experience

S22 E5 | CLIP

The First Earth Day

Looking back on 1970's first Earth Day celebration.

AIRED: April 18, 2010 | 0:02:11

Earth Day demonstrations began

in practically every city and town

in the United States this morning,

the first massive nationwide protest

against the pollution of the environment.

In Washington, there was an awesome Earth Day warning

from a government scientist.

Dr. J. Murray Mitchell said

pollution and over-pollution, unless checked,

could so warm the Earth in 200 years

as to create a greenhouse effect,

melting the Arctic ice cap

and flooding vast areas of the world.

(applause, cheering and whistling)

HAYES: Nationally, Earth Day was

the largest demonstration ever in American history.

Some events had half a million people in them.

And we had an estimated 20 million across the country.

CRONKITE: Some quarters saw more than coincidence

in the fact that Earth Day

occurred on the 100th anniversary

of the birth of Lenin, the father of Soviet communism.

The Comptroller General of Georgia, James Bentley,

sent out some $1,600 worth of telegrams

warning that Earth Day might be a communist plot.

(indistinct shouting)

HAYES: There were certainly people who had their pet causes.

Some pounded vehicles apart with sledgehammers

as a protest against the internal combustion engine.

Others wore gas masks to protest air pollution.

But also, there was an almost celebratory thing,

as though suddenly, we were awakening

to a new set of opportunities.

HAYES: They are talking about emission control devices

on automobiles while we are talking about

bans on automobiles.

We are challenging the ethics of a society,

that with only six percent of the world's population,

accounts for more than half of its utilization of resources.

Our country is stealing from the poorer countries of the world

and from generations as yet unborn.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv