Today, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we celebrate.
Admittedly, we are celebrating this Earth Day much differently than in the past. This Earth Day movement began with a teach-in; but this year, we are instructed to stay in our homes due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has touched every life on the globe. Sadly, this year we must celebrate apart.
This year, let’s celebrate the key role our state played in the modern environmental movement. For centuries, prairies, forests, riverbanks and lakes have been a source of pride, almost an identity, for everyone who has called Wisconsin home. Fifty years ago, that Wisconsin ethic of stewardship was borne into a global movement when Earth Day was founded by former Wisconsin Governor and Senator Gaylord Nelson. Earth Day was also the beginning of Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade, the original name of Clean Wisconsin.
We have made a lot of great environmental progress in the home of Earth Day. Thanks to the organizational leadership of great environmental champions like Doug La Follette, Peter Anderson and Kathleen Falk, and the many dedicated staff and members over the years, Wisconsin passed cornerstone environmental laws that protect our air and water. We stopped dangerous nuclear and coal plants, and defeated open pit mining projects. We tackled acid rain, started recycling, and we passed the historic Great Lakes Compact, among many other victories.
So we have a lot of amazing results and people to thank who helped make it possible.
While it is important to celebrate, Clean Wisconsin hasn’t forgotten the many environmental challenges before us. As the world grapples with the acute crisis of Covid-19, we’re reminded of the major challenges from a changing climate. We also know, that due to pollution from agriculture, polluting industries, and lead pipes, many people in the wealthiest nation in world history cannot rely on clean drinking water from their taps. And many of us live near sources of air pollution that threaten our health. These problems are the result of years of negligence by polluters and government leaders who deny facts or put their own selfish interests above everyone else. We must address these issues!
So, we celebrate with a renewed sense of conviction and purpose. We’re reminded that the environmental victories won in the years following the first Earth Day—the ones nationally and here in Wisconsin—were won thanks to vision, tenacity, and people who came together in hopes of change. Our history is proof: it IS possible to achieve monumental change and to solve major environmental challenges. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
Just as we have for the last fifty years, all of us at Clean Wisconsin are committed to start with science and depend on facts to promote strong policy, defend environmental laws, and hold polluters accountable. As we head into the next fifty years, we’re resolved to continue to lead the way, and to make sure everyone in this state has clean water, can breathe fresh air, and has the opportunity for a healthy, happy life.
Whether you’ve been a member since the beginning or joined us last week, we thank you for being with us to celebrate this historic moment, and for your help as we move into a new environmental decade together, leaving our communities, state, and planet better off for the next generation.
President & CEO