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Beyond Earth Day

Fulfilling the Promise

Gaylord Nelson, with Susan Campbell and Paul A. Wozniak

Publication Year: 2002

    Gaylord Nelson is known and respected throughout the world as a founding father of the modern environmental movement and creator of one of the most successful and influential public awareness campaigns ever undertaken on behalf of global stewardship: Earth Day.
    Now in his eighties, Nelson delivers a timely and urgent message with the same eloquence with which he has articulated the nation’s environmental ills through the decades. He details the planet’s most critical concerns—from species and habitat losses to global climate changes and population growth. In outlining his strategy for planetary health, he inspires citizens to reassert the environment as a top priority.
    A book for anyone who cares deeply about our environment and wants to know what we can and must do now to save it, Beyond Earth Day is a classic guide by one of the natural world’s great defenders.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xvii

I remember what America was like before Earth Day; the Cuyahoga River burned for a week with flames five stories high; Lake Erie was declared dead. As a boy, I was warned not to swim in the Hudson, the Potomac, or the Charles Rivers. I recall how black smoke billowed from the stacks in Washington, D.C., so that we had to dust daily...

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pp. xix-xx

Where our planet’s health is concerned, I have always believed that a public armed with knowledge is a public armed with the means and the determination to find a solution. The first Earth Day demonstrated that when the public understands the urgency of addressing the planet’s ecological ills, it...

Part 1. The Earth and Its Day

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pp. 1

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1. Earth Day: When the People Spoke

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pp. 3-14

What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked. Having spoken on environmental issues in some two dozen states during the twelve years before that first Earth Day, I knew the public was far ahead of the political establishment in its concern for what was happening to the...

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2. Report Card on the Earth

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pp. 15-19

In the wake of sweeping environmental laws, most notably the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, much of the visible pollution has been cleared away. Black smoke no longer billows and curls from smokestacks; raw sewage no longer runs into waterways in the amounts it once did; Ohio’s Cuyahoga River no longer burns from...

Part 2. Imperiled Planet

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pp. 21

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3. Windows on the World

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pp. 23-49

It is the challenge and responsibility of every nation to conscientiously seek sustainability to the extent feasible within its own borders. The evidence to date is unmistakable that the environmental damage is serious and mounts day by day. The deterioration is taking shape around the globe—appearing in the form of species extinctions, global...

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4. Vanishing Resources

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pp. 50-86

In our race toward progress it seems we’re always in a rush. There was the gold rush that helped push the nation’s growth to the Pacific Ocean. The rise of the industrial and automotive age fueled an oil rush that continues to this day. Black gold, they call it, shouting “Eureka!” every time their rigs and drills tap into a new source of oil. We’ve...

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5. An Invisible Threat

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pp. 87-102

Like most people, I didn’t question it when the trucks pulled up and fogged the neighborhood with DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)— blanketing the plants, the trees, the grasses, and everything else. That was in 1960–61, some forty years ago, and they were spraying to wipe out mosquitoes in the community of Maple Bluff, located just outside...

Part 3. Environmentalism: Then and Now

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pp. 103

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6. Complacent Planet?

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pp. 105-129

Yet, after all of the early success of the environmental movement in the 1970s and its challenges during the 1980s and 1990s, where is it today? At a time when environmental problems loom larger than ever, necessitating an even broader commitment to activism and stewardship, is the commitment still...

Part 4. An Environmental Agenda for the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 131

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7. Achieving Sustainability

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pp. 133-157

Our goal as a society is to successfully address the fundamental issue of our time—the forging of a sustainable society. Every nation on the planet faces the same challenge: the creation of a society whose activities do not exceed the carrying capacity of its resource base; that is to say, a society that manages its natural resources in such a way that...

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An Appeal

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pp. 159-160

Earth Day owes its success to the millions of people around the nation who rose to the occasion on behalf of the planet. But we owe a special debt of gratitude to that 1970s generation of young people—grade school, high school, and college students—who supplied the energy, enthusiasm, and idealism that contributed so...

Appendix 1: Letter to John F. Kennedy

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pp. 163-168

Appendix 2: Introduction to “Environmental Agenda for Earth Day 1970”

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pp. 169-175


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pp. 177-189

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pp. 191

Thank you to Jim Wiersma and others in the scientific and environmental community who took the time to proof early drafts of the manuscript for technical accuracy, and to Tom Content for his many editing contributions and insightful suggestions. We’d also like to...


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pp. 193-201

E-ISBN-13: 9780299180430
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299180409

Publication Year: 2002