Throwback Thursday – Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary

The Kentucky Museum at WKU is hosting a new exhibit paying homage to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. With a focus on Mammoth Cave and an international UNESCO workshop later this year, the “Gazing Deeply” exhibit opens in February. We thought it would be fun to share the history of Earth Day.

It all started in 1969 when Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, was extremely bothered by the results of a massive oil spill in California. He aspired to harness the same fervor America’s youth and students had against the war in Vietnam to protest the way our environment was being treated. 

Just like civil rights national sit-ins were held in the early 1960s, Senator Nelson organized national teach-ins in 1970. He recruited help from Dennis Hayes at Harvard to put together events across the country between Spring Break and finals weeks to educate Americans about the impact of their everyday activities on the environment. On April 22, 1970, more than 20 million Americans, 10 percent of the country’s population, protested in the streets for a cleaner earth. 

It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Now more than a billion people across the globe annually observe Earth Day. 

WKU is hosting an international UNESCO conference about conservation this spring, focusing heavily on the area’s karst and cave systems. The Kentucky Museum’s “Gazing Deeply” exhibit will focus on the art and science of Mammoth Cave.