“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human being and all living creatures.” – Senator Gaylord Nelson, 1970
Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin senator who is considered the founder of Earth Day, is a native son of the St. Croix River region. He was born and raised in Clear Lake, east of New Richmond. He went on to not only found the defining event of the environmental movement, but also led the charge to pass the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act in 1968 – it included the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers in the eight inaugural rivers designated.
“There was a special adventure to being a young boy in northwestern Wisconsin,” Nelson said. “There was the adventure of exploring a deep green pine forest, crunching noisily through the crisp leaves and pine needles on a sharp fall day, or taking a cool drink from a fast running trout stream or a hidden lake.”
His legacy lives on today, despite the fact that Nelson passed away in 2005, with Earth Day falling on Wednesday this week, April 22.
Children of Earth Day
In St. Croix Falls, a trail along the river starting at the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway headquarters is named the “Gaylord Nelson Riverwalk.”
A bench along the path, created by local elementary school students in 2006, teacher Amy Klein, and artists Jim and Kim Shoop as part of the Art Bench Trail, pays homage to the man whom many thank for the wild and clean St. Croix River.
“We talked a lot about Gaylord Nelson, what he meant, all that he contributed to preserving the St Croix,” Klein said.
Inspired by the homegrown environmental leader, the Art Bench group created their project based on the concept of “the importance of keeping the natural environment intact, the past of the natural environment, the hope for its future and the great beauty of St. Croix Falls.”
Empowering the Earth
Trying to make the transition to a new era of Earth Day, local food scientist and environmental educator Teresa Wolfe is launching an initiative called Project 1 this Earth Day.
Project 1 is about inspiring people to take action to help heal the planet. Designed for both adults and children, Wolfe says she wants everyone to feel like they can help make things better.
“This Earth Day event is a great opportunity to teach kids that their ideas count,” says organizer Teresa Wolfe. “They don’t have to feel hopelessness or despair about the environment because they are too little to do anything about it. Not true! They are needed and necessary to help restore the planet. This event will empower kids (and everyone else) to discover the wisdom that already resides within themselves.”
Project 1 asks participants to take a minute this Earth Day to take one action for the planet. Some suggestions include:
- Pick up ONE piece of trash
- Write to ONE restaurant to introduce recycling bins
- Make ONE phone call to a politician
- Write ONE check to a non-profit organization that promotes a healthier environment
- Buy ONE thing from a local farmer or business
Readers can learn more and join the cause at http://www.globalhealingprojects.com/.