The first Earth Day

On April 22, 1970, Annette and I celebrated the first Earth Day while attending UCLA, where many thousands of students and faculty participated in an awareness fair which shook many of us awake to the myriad damaging and unsustainable activities that underwrote our lifestyles. Booth after booth presented pressing pressures which were damaging our environment. We learned about recycling, zero population growth, the smell of suspicious burning herbs, face-painting and the general deterioration of the environment. Mother Earth was caught in a vice tightened by greed, deception and ignorance, while our country was at war in Vietnam against a never proven communist "domino theory."

Seemingly disparate groups that had been fighting against pesticides, power plants, polluting factories, oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values. We went home to re-think our ways and instantly adopted a less demanding life-style.

A year later we would be found on the Plaza in Ashland, running a grocery/restaurant in which we composted the leftovers of our locally grown foods used in the preparation of seductively delicious vegetarian meals. It was back to the land time and being frugal and efficient came with the decidedly low income levels.

Earth Day was celebrated this year on April 19 in front of ScienceWorks, across a side street from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's forensic lab. People jammed the grounds, having walked, biked or bussed in from outlying parking lots. Tarp topped booths were set up in concentric circles with a visual focus on a main stage, while the noses and grumbling stomachs pointed toward the food vendors.

"It's like d&


224;-vu all over again," went the quote from Yogi Berra, yet almost everything had changed. Bicycles, electric cars, a new model Prius and a velomobile (enclosed recumbent three wheeler) were open for inspection as I arrived atop a Segway. Displays on recycling, solar energy, energy conservation and almost anything conceived to protect the environment filled the temporary eco-village, while greetings were warmly exchanged throughout. I could not find Exxon/Mobil's display, which, I presume, is on indefinite loan in Baghdad.

Yet, 38 years later we still face the same problems as populations rise and finite resources become diluted by world demand. Who would have thought that in the race to become less oil dependent our biofuels effort would come at the expense of now costly corn and grains, leaving the potential for worldwide food riots which could quickly change our perception of civilization. No good deed goes unpunished.

While walking about the booths a sprinkling of white floated down, seemingly the first of a snowstorm that was entering the valley. I grabbed a flake and then realized that although it was white, it did not melt. It was clearly time for some science work. With a world-class forensics lab on my left and a science museum on my right I boarded the Segway and searched for the source of the fake flakes.

I repaired to higher ground and spotted smoke some three bocks away. I arrived upon the smoking scene to observe that Fire District Five was doing a controlled burn of a crumbling house. Pumpers, hoses and firemen surrounded the still-burning structure as a cloud of white ash spiraled skyward. Once airborne the flakes suddenly changed directions which disbursed them intermittently over the Earth Day celebration. I scratched my head and smiled, finding it ironic that the burn was scheduled for the same time as the "don't pollute" delegation was in session to help people become more aware that there are consequences for everything humankind does on this small, warm, spinning globe.

(Lance was last seen listening to Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind," while keeping a sharp eye out for infractions of the lessons of Earth Day. You may compose or compost a message to, that is when you are not busy putting out everyday fires.)

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