Today's environmental leaders: Where they were on Earth Day One

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For the leaders of many of the nation's most influential green groups, the first Earth Day marked their political coming-of-age.

American Rivers President Rebecca Wodder: A high school senior in Omaha, she was asked by her chemistry teacher to organize a community-wide event. "The day was an epiphany for me, as I was at the point of making some key decisions about my life's course. Because of the first Earth Day, I studied environmental science and biology as an undergrad at University of Kansas, and have spent my entire career working in the environmental field, including for the last 15 years, as president of American Rivers."

Conservation International Chief Executive Officer Peter Seligmann: A sophomore at Rutgers University studying wildlife ecology, Seligmann sat "on the lawn with hundreds of other celebrants listening to speeches about the Earth . . . her fragility . . . and the need to reduce waste, prevent the greenhouse effect and protect rain forests. Unfortunately, the lawn was littered with bottles and cups when the events ended."

Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp: "I helped run Earth Day 1970 at Verona High School in Verona, N.J. It was a school-wide half-day program of seminars and outside speakers."

National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger: In Pittsburgh, studying biology at Allegheny Community College, "I remember organizing a college biology-club field trip to Pymatuning on the first Earth Day to see what were, at the time, the last pair of nesting bald eagles in Pennsylvania. We planned to charter a bus to visit this grand nest site. The response to the field trip was so large that I needed to rent a second bus to get all the students to the nest site."

Natural Resources Defense Council founder John Adams: He celebrated the first Earth Day in Greenwich Village with "a small group of very committed individuals, including Richard Ottinger, a New York congressman, who had spoken at our founding conference a month before."

Nature Conservancy President Mark Tercek: "I was a seventh-grade Boy Scout living in the very urban and not-so-pristine environment of Cleveland. Our Boy Scout troop did cleanup work for Earth Day 1970 in the city's metropolitan park network."

Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope: "I was on the Mall handing out leaflets about population growth," adding that, in contrast to Vietnam, "there was a sense that this was an issue that could bring everyone together."

Wilderness Society President Bill Meadows: A Vanderbilt alumnus and employee, Meadows attended an event on the Nashville campus that "produced a catalyst for engagement. I can date my environmental awareness and engagement to the first Earth Day."

-- Juliet Eilperin

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