Gaylord Nelson’s speech and his inauguration of Earth Day are as pertinent today as they were then, only more so. He began by saying that the public concern for the environment is more than a matter of survival. Today, however, it is overarchingly a matter of survival of every human being and living animal and plant on earth with the revelation by the scientific community of the threats posed by human-caused climate change.
Senator Nelson was prescient in declaring that environmental protection is vital to every aspect of life, to poverty, civil rights, peace and human dignity. Extend that today to include food to prevent starvation, water to sustain all forms of animal and plant life, coastal lands threatened by sea level rise, and virtually all environmental amenities.
For all of us who devote our lives to saving and enhancing the planet’s environment, Senator Nelson has been a mentor and an inspiration. His establishment of Earth Day to celebrate the significance of the environment is a wonderful reminder of his contributions, teaching and actions that everyone needs to emulate.