The annual Earth Day celebration evokes a great deal of memories for me. But as the years have passed, the celebration has taken on new meaning for Baby Boomers like me since the first Earth Day observance in spring of 1970.
It was care-free long-haired college students in the early 1970s who really got the movement off the ground as thousands of students marked the peaceful day on campuses across the country.
I was a freshman at Westminster College in spring of 1971 and remember celebrating Earth Day with “rigorous” outdoor activity such as tossing Frisbees near the amphitheater on Brittain Lake.
It was a peaceful respite from the numerous less-than-tranquil protests of the war in Vietnam. It was a day to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate all the good things given to us by Mother Nature – and a day to remind us to do all that we could in the future to preserve the good Earth.
The next three springs I spent at Penn State University at University Park and celebrated Earth Day on the spacious campus lawn in front of Old Main in the shadows of Mount Nittany, again playing Frisbee and volleyball. By the time I was a senior in 1974, more meaningful events were tied to Earth Day, such as a campuswide cleanup of litter and other debris, especially around the campus quad and Beaver Stadium.
You got the sense that in only four years, Earth Day was turning into a more significant celebration than only a day of play in the great outdoors.
But I was reminded last Friday morning that not everyone is doing their share to keep America beautiful. As I was driving to The Herald on Sharpsville Avenue, out of the driver’s window from the car in front of me came flying what turned out to be an empty potato chip bag that fluttered its way across my hood to my windshield.
It took me back to those cerebral college celebrations, and I realized such tossing of litter from cars was commonplace before the impact of Earth Day and other awareness campaigns to keep the environment clean and healthy.
When I started at The Herald as a reporter in 1974, several stories began to unfold throughout the decade tied to the efforts of Earth Day activists across the country.
There were concerns about emissions and toxic waste from the Shenango Valley’s two largest employers, Sharon Steel Corp. and Westinghouse Electric Corp, leachate and groundwater contamination by the former River Road Landfill, and the polluting of the Shenango River.
The transformation of the Shenango throughout the years is a testament to the awareness created by Earth Day and a testament to the dedicated work by the Shenango River Watchers and other individuals. The once filthy river is the cleanest it has been in years through their efforts and the elimination of pollution by industry.
Earth Day celebrates its 44th birthday Tuesday, and much good has been created thoughout the country since those carefree days of Frisbee and volleyball at Penn State.
Let me know when you find the jet
I have never seen so many talking heads on CNN’s panels of experts regarding the missing Malaysian jet have so little to say of meaning and be so wrong – seemingly 24 hours a day.
I echo the sentiments of a lot of people whom I know, that while they recognize the enormity of the tragedy, the non-stop reporting of no news and “expert” speculation is a little ridiculous.
“I think there’s a very good chance they’re looking in the right place,” said one of the experts. Who cares? I don’t – tell me when they find floating debris or when they find the airliner.
Fortunately, my TV remote takes care of this incessant nonsense. As Farrell buddy and Army retiree Chip Krokoski aptly posted on his Facebook page:
“I’ve watched folks hunt for an airplane so much I could watch reruns of the Michael Jackson funeral ...”
Jim Raykie is the executive editor of The Herald. His column appears on Mondays.