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Earth Day at Cornell, 1970

Cornell Daily Sun front page 4/23/1970
Earth Day Examines Environment

April, 1970 was a turbulent time at Cornell. Father Daniel Berrigan - professor of theology and fugitive from the FBI for destroying draft records - had just surfaced for a peace rally on campus; African-American students were protesting after a suspicious fire and the Black Panther leadership was on trial in Connecticut; a professor had just been assaulted by a disgruntled student. Amongst all of this much of the student body, many faculty, and the administration came together for a wide series of events for the inaugural Earth Day.

Earth Day Activities

The first official Earth Day event at Cornell was actually the evening of the 21st with a panel discussion attempting to take to task the U.S. military for environmental destruction in Southeast Asia; at the time napalm and Agent Orange were in use by U.S. forces in Vietnam. An extensive program of workshops, films, and discussions filled campus on the 22nd, capping with a panel entitled "The Social, Economic, and Political Implications of the Environmental Crisis." The Cornell Environmental Action Committee didn't stage any demonstrations or cleanup activities, preferring to focus on the teaching aspect. That didn't, however, stop a graveyard of extinct species - including homo sapiens - from appearing on the arts quad, among other protests.

Earth Day in 1970 was as political as it is in the 21st century, when lobbyists for all sides of the issues work to persuade lawmakers into specific actions. As you can see from the two opinion pieces below - both published in the Cornell Daily Sun April 22, 1970 - even at its start Earth Day was a political call to arms as much as a call to perform physical cleanups.

Pollution Runaround
Earth Day Politics