The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair; and recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator. Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.
The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) now works with over 50,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.
For The Ridges, Earth Day 2015 has special significance. It was one year ago today that we broke ground for our new Nature Center. Our staff is already operating out of the new facility and is busily preparing for our public opening on June 13. Located on State Highway 57 and Ridges Road in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, our Center is the first LEED certified commercial building in Door County. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices in design, construction, operation, and maintenance. We are pleased to say that we are currently on track for Gold certification.
As we celebrate Earth Day, our hope is that our new Center will serve as an educational model for responsible, sustainable development in a sensitive environment for both businesses and private landowners. Because it’s our turn to lead — all of us!