From its inception 40 years ago Earth Day has been a student-centric event.
Not surprisingly, Earth Day's origins can be traced to a single instance of environmental devastation when Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson was touring the Santa Barbara coastline assessing the damage caused by an oil spill.
Nelson had long been contemplating a way in which to infuse environmental issues into the political discourse in Washington D.C. During a flight from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, Nelson was reading about the effectiveness of student led anti-war teach-ins on college campuses across the U.S. and concluded that the same format could prove just as successful for environmental issues:
"I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda," said Nelson.
The response to Nelson's idea was overwhelming and from the first Earth Day in 1970 popular participation, advocacy and organization has grown exponentially. Earth Day is the largest environmental event in the world focusing the energy of 1 billion people in 170 countries.
Nelson again: "That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself."
What has yet to organize itself nearly as effectively is a political response to popular demands, which is why Earth Day remains as vital today as it has ever been.
As it turns out, affecting a political response to issues of environmental concern has not been a "virtual cinch," as Nelson thought it would be but Earth Day activities on University campuses across the country are aimed at keeping environmental issues entrenched in public discourse.
Here are just a few events taking place across the country (click each event for more information):
University of Victoria
University of British Columbia
- UBC Foreshore Cleanup - April 22, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
- Earth Day at UBC Botanical Garden - April 24, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
University of Calgary
Medicine Hat College
University of Toronto
- Public Screening: Dirt! the Movie - April 21, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
- Earth Day Celebrations - April 22, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Earth Day Presentation: Environmental Aspects of Petroleum Offshore Development - April 22, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.