The first (forgotten) Earth Day: Spring Equinox 1969

‘Earth Day is devoted to the harmony of nature … offends no historical calendar, yet transcends them all.’ These words of the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead apply precisely to the equinox. She, with others, chose this fixed event in the calendar to be the first Earth Day in 1969, fifty three years ago. The spring equinox is a natural Earth Day, with a host of advantages built in. Not only that, it has a twin on the other side of the year: the autumnal equinox.

We have so many problems to solve that cross boundaries, continents and oceans – right now, COVID-19 – but above all, a climate crisis. That’s why Earth Days are needed more than ever – and with two equinoxes you get twice the frequency, double the value.

And yet the early environment movement missed these unique advantages of equinoxes – that they are actual Earth Days, during which we share a moment of equality.  The movement was very new, of course; most histories cite the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 as its moment of origin, and the idea of a dedicated Earth Day was only being mooted in 1968.  This was a year of change and revolution in any case, but a serious oil spill in the autumn of that year added urgency to the nascent environmental leaders’ deliberations.

However, the arguments of Senator Gaylord Nelson (no relation) – that rather than the vernal equinox on March 20/21, a date in April fitted better into the US school calendar – won the day. Thus the first official Earth Day was established on April 22 1970.

Equinoxes have been left unused for half a century; now is the time to reclaim them.

© Martin Nelson March 2021
Image credit: Ed Dunens, vernal equinox sunrise — reproduced under this Creative Commons license.

One thought on “The first (forgotten) Earth Day: Spring Equinox 1969

  1. Throughout my life I have and am amazed at how easily environmental and other activists have been diverted from their course. The choice of spring Equinox i969 is an example of such a misdirection. To accept the change from a powerful day for implementing change ( traditionally the Equinoxes were the times of transference of power from the Holly King to the Oak king and from the Oak King to the Holly King in more recent times these transference s of power are celebrated by Pagan Groups at the Solstices.) to a mediocre insignificant day which suits the school calendar in USA Inc.( they are so inept that they could not even suggest a day which has the appearance of a day of power) without any significant opposition speaks volumes for the awareness of members of the Environmental activists in relation to the available powers of our Earth and her celestial family. Simple mechanical Science tells us that a beam balance in perfect balance on a fulcrum only takes a minimum of force to tilt it in the desired direction. The Solstices are a time of pending chaos and any intervention at that time would have little chance of desired outcome even with a high direct energy input.

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