That was my father’s mantra whenever he led my sister and me into the woods for nature hikes. As youngsters, we loved those times with dad. It seemed no matter what bird or critter presented itself to us, or what plant we passed, dad knew its name. He instilled a life-long appreciation for the natural world deep in our hearts.
The importance of dad’s lessons was dramatically heightened in 1970, when my boyfriend asked if I was interested in heading into Philadelphia to attend an event simply called “Earth Day.” Of course, I said, “Yes.”
It was a perfect spring morning. He picked me up in a forest green Mustang convertible… a very “groovy” way to travel back then! A block or two before we arrived at the celebration site, Belmont Plateau, I recall feeling the excitement in the air. There were already thousands of people in attendance.
As the day went on, we listened to speakers, like Edmund Muskie (author of 1970 Clean Air Act), and danced as bands performed en plein air. We left the celebration with a first-of-its-kind message playing in our heads: commitment to preserving our planet’s ecological well-being… a concept originally inspired in a speech given by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. Senator Nelson was a key visionary who worked to send messages to federal officials that something needed to be done to protect the environment from the extinction of wildlife, pollution from factories and power plants, oil spills and toxic dumping.
The man I married a few years after the first Earth Day celebration heard the message, too. He graduated with one of the first Environmental Health degrees offered at Penn State University. After our wedding, we loaded everything we collectively owned into a VW Bus and moved West to Oregon. The lure of cutting-edge environmental policies supported by Governor Tom McCall beckoned us.
We’ve retired from our professional careers… he, an Environmental Specialist, and I, a teacher.
Now we continue in our quest to support environmental interests as graduates of the Oregon Master Naturalist program. I know this would make my dad very happy and proud.
And… “How far out” is this?
Fifty years later… I still have my Earth Day Celebration button from 1970 and am life-long inspired by what came to be a significant ground-breaking event for future environmental legislation on federal, state, and local levels.
That makes me smile… with reverence for Nature inspired by the lessons my Dad taught me during our walks in the woods.