A Wake-Up Call on Earth Day 1972 & A Mounting Crisis As We Race Into the 2022s!

by Melissa Taft
dustan woodhouse RUqoVelx59I unsplash

By Tom Sine

Originally published on New Changemakers.

I still remember that first Earth Day on April 25, 1972 day very clearly. I was working as Dean of Students at Maui Community College. Dr. James Dator from the University of Hawaii presented a very alarming forecast of a host of environmental challenges that we were likely to face in the future.

As a young 37 year old I prided myself on keeping up on what we used to call “current events” but I had no sense the future was changing. Dr. Dator’s description of some of the environmental crises that were likely to come our way in the next two decades were chilling.

50 of the students were so unsettled they took immediate action. I followed them three blocks north of the campus to a motel that was right on the ocean. When we arrived I immediately saw huge mounds of garbage on the beach. The students collected over 50 large bags of garbage and took it into the lobby. Initially the manager exploded, however by 5 pm he caved in and hired a garbage service.

That First Earth Day brought me to Seattle to pursue a Doctorate at the University of Washington in Intellectual history and a minor in forecasting. My first professor, Frank Herbert, taught a class titled Utopia/Dystopia that revealed how deeply divergent our views of a desirable future are in both our history and our literature. The research for Frank’s classic book Dune was done by researching the dunes in southern Oregon and his strong concern for the well-being of our environment. Frank was not only a friend and a mentor he also shared my concern about the environment in Washington state. In fact, several other professors at the UW also wanted to see the state of Washington do more to create a sustainable environment.

My professors learned about several states who, in response to that first Earth Day, had instituted state futures projects including Maine Manifesto and California Tomorrow. Several of them took the initiative to arrange a meeting with Governor Dan Evans. They presented their rough ideas for instituting a Washington State futures project too.

A Surprising State Response to That First Earth day! 

To their surprise, Governor Dan Evans – a Republican – was much more progressive than the governors in other states. Governor Evans instituted a process of inviting the participation of citizens all over the state to secure their ideas for the future of the state of Washington over a year. I was fortunate to attend the final citizens gathering at a Catholic retreat site outside of Seattle. One of the major areas of citizen concern was for the increased stewardship of the beautiful environment in Washington State. This was clearly expressed in Alternatives for Washington Volume II. That is available in many libraries in our state.

Alternatives for Washington was sponsored by the state of Washington and administered by the Office of Program Planning and Fiscal Management with the assistance of the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., the University of Washington and Washington State University, and the US Department of Commerce.

The leading supportive goals for Environment Policies in the Alternatives For Washington stated the first goal: “Establish, monitor, and enforce air, water, and noise pollution standards on a regional basis to maintain a desirable environment and prevent adverse effects on public health.” P.164  Alternative for Washington, Daniel J. Evans Governor, VOLUME II October 30, 1974

What made Alternatives for Washington stand out among the other state futures projects was that  Governor Dan Evans not only solicited citizen input during that year-long project; he actually drafted legislation that reflected citizen input before he left office.

Frank Herbert’s Final Response to that First Earth Day Was Not Surprising

When Frank Herbert retired in Port Townsend, Washington he never retired from his concern for the environment. In fact the first thing Frank did, when he moved to Port Townsend, was to build a huge windmill in his backyard. Then he purchased one of the earliest electric cars and he never went back to a gas station the rest of his life. By the way, I am currently enjoying the audio version of Dune on my weekly walks around Green Lake… a version of Dune I strongly recommend.

I Urge Us All To Join Gen Y & Z, who are most aware that we only have two decades to turn this global environmental crisis around. Many of these young people have the Highest Commitment to preserving our planet for their children’s generation. I Urge All Those Who Are Followers of Jesus to join those who are working to preserve this amazing planet for all of our children and grandchildren…while we also pray for peace in Ukraine! 

I am still working with church leaders to join those who are taking the future seriously. Do check out our current book I wrote with Dwight J. Friesen 2020s Foresight:Three Vital Practices For Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change.

I would welcome your response: twsine@gmail.com

Join Tom on New Changemakers for a series of posts that will be an invitation to join those who are caring for God’s Creation

  • We will start with Celtic Christian’s devotion to creation
  • We will share Randy Woodley”s Becoming Rooted: One Hundred Days of Reconnecting With Sacred Earth
  • We will share Circlewood An invitation to join Creation Care

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

D3AF56C7 9CAC 49B5 89BD 1F7A4553A9F3 Join Christine Sine, Tom Sine, and others for Inhabit 2022 on April 29-30th in Seattle- a live conference by Parish Collective. Explore stories of hope and be encouraged to be the church in your neighborhood. You are not alone – the everyday realities are carried by us all. Click here for more info!

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