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 Sen. Gaylord Nelson passed away 13 years ago.  There are no second acts in American life, and little that is more “former” than “former Senator.”  For most ex-Senators, even their memory is forgotten.  But Sen. Gaylord Nelson is worth remembering.  He was a friend of the Earth.

Gaylord Nelson grew up enamored by Wisconsin’s crisp, clean air, pristine forests, and meandering rivers.

Following the Second World War, during which he served in the Army, Nelson ran for Wisconsin State Senate with conservationism as the centerpiece of his platform – a rarity for a candidate in any race at the time.  When he was elected Governor in 1958, he sought to restore poorly-maintained state parks, acquire land for recreational public parks and wildlife protection, and create a Youth Conservation Corps to tackle green projects and address rising unemployment simultaneously, within the younger demographic of the state. His well-documented success on those initiatives fueled a run for U.S. Senate during the Kennedy Administration.  He was elected in 1962, then re-elected in 1968, and then re-elected again in 1974.

Why is this important?

Because in January of 1969, when an oil well blowout produced a spill of historical proportions about six miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, Senator Nelson directly and publicly blamed the federal government for a lack of oversight and environmental protections.  He traveled to Santa Barbara to witness the damage first-hand, made the recovery efforts a matter of public interest, and called for more federal attention to environmental issues. By then, over 100,000 gallons of oil had spewed into the Pacific, but his tireless advocacy combined with ample media coverage of the aftermath of the spill encouraged Americans to organize to protect Planet Earth.  And organize they did.

April 22, 1970 saw the participation of 20 million Americans (roughly a tenth of the entire then-current U.S. population) in a “national teach-in” full of seminars, marches, and rallies.  We now recognize this day annually as Earth Day, as it marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement, inspired the passage of heaps of crucial legislation, and mainstreamed giving a damn about the planet.

In the days of Scott Pruitt abominations and the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, it may not always seem that this movement is alive and well; but industry-backed special interest groups surely aren’t spending billions upon billions of dollars on elections if they feel they have nothing to lose in any possible outcome.  There are elected officials and candidates all over the United States with the guts to stand up to Big Dirt and face the existential threat to humanity that is global climate change. Alan is one of them.

While serving in Congress, Alan wrote and passed legislation providing billions of dollars in conservation tax breaks and a substantial increase in federal estuary funding (and go try and find any other Member of Congress who has passed any other environmental legislation during the past eight years).  He forced a rare tie vote on a Grayson amendment to give the states veto-power over offshore drilling.  Alan voted to ban oil drilling off the coast of Florida, he voted to implement and enforce caps on CO₂ emissions, and he supported the Fifty-by-Thirty initiative requiring half of the United States’ energy to be produced from clean sources with no greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030.

Senator Nelson devoted his life to the hope and vision of a clean, sustainable America. This Earth Week, take a deep breath of fresh air and renew your determination to Save the Planet.  Alan remembers his first Earth Day, when his science teacher took the class across the street to the park to enjoy nature for the afternoon.  And today, who speaks for the trees?  Alan Grayson does.

Alan Grayson is a former Congressman from FL, USA

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The efforts of environmental protection are appreciable