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The Sound of Ideas

40 Years of Earth Day

Posted Friday, April 23, 2010

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40 Years of Earth Day The first Earth Day was held 40 years ago. Back then, the big environmental fears had to with overpopulation and a vision of the future that involved city dwellers needing gas masks. You've got to admit, when today’s top issues involve a green economy and geo-engineering, times sure have changed. Friday at 9, Regina Brett and guests take a look back at the last forty years of greening the planet. What can we learn today from the successes and mistakes of the past? We'll talk to some of the biggest names of the environmental movement both then and now.


Environment, Government/Politics, Health, Other, Transportation


Paul Ehrlich, President, Center for Conservation Biology & Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University
Denis Hayes, President & CEO, Bullitt Foundation & Earth Day Organizer
Andrew Watterson, Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland
David Beach, Director, GreenCityBlueLake Institute

Additional Information

Unfinished business: Earth Day 40 years later, Washington Post video
A New Shade of Green, by William Ruckelshaus The Wall Street Journal
How much environmental action has occurred in 40 years?, USA Today
Earth Days, American Experience

Leave a Comment

Please follow our community discussion rules when composing your comments.

Brenda Dillane 9:47 AM 4/23/10

Please thank your guests for shaping the consciousness of this 50 year old! I try to instill these values in my son and the children I work with.  COuld they speak briefly to the way “biodegradable” is viewed today? I still try to purchase such products but less emphasis seems to be placed on this, for example shampoos sold in health food stores but not labeled as biodegradable. Lastly, ditto to the comments from the caller who thanked the work you do, Regina, to better the Cleveland area.

Jim Ridge 12:46 PM 4/23/10

Great job taking something abstract as ‘Earth Day’ and making it real for your listeners.  Engaged citizens care more about things when they choose to become actively involved with a cause.  One fine example of a Cleveland organization providing a conduit for northeast Ohioans to develop a more intimate relationship with our river is the Cleveland Rowing Foundation, where over 650 scholastic, college and adult rowers ply the waters of the Cuyahoga. 

In two weeks over 350 adults will soon begin Summer Rowing League, with many of them literally getting into the Cuyahoga for the first time.  Each of those participants will become an apostle for the value and benefits a community receives from a greener environment.

The Rivergate Park initiative is a tremendous opportunity to locate a new recreational center on the banks of the Cuyahoga.  For more information, go to

Frank Campbell 3:03 PM 4/23/10

My relationship with the Cuyahoga is much different now than it was before I began rowing on the river.  Before, the river was just some abstract body of water that divided the East and West sides of Cleveland; it never occurred to me that people were ever intimately associated with it.  Now because of time spent rowing on the river, I have a fondness for it and am very much concerned about its health.  In a rowing shell, you are perched inches above the water, pretty much as close as one can get without being immersed.  There, as an athlete, the river becomes an essential companion, as you navigate it’s waters experiencing the city from a perspective that is foreign to most.  There, you experience first hand the complex relationships between the industries of the city, the varied bird populations which are sustained by the Cuyahoga and inhabit its banks, and the river itself. It then occurs to you that there is more to it – WE are also an important participant in this complex community that is dependent on the river.  Certainly, without the progress of the last 40 years the river would not currently be host to hundreds of local rowers nor the site of annual regattas.  There is much work yet to be done.  If you establish a connection with the river, you will quickly have a new appreciation for its importance.  Personally, I would recommend rowing, but however you do it get to know the Cuyahoga.  It’s life depends on it.

Diane Koski 1:39 PM 4/24/10

I have lived in Parma all my life and I never really paid much attention to the Cuyahoga River until I started rowing on a summer rowing league ( on the river. I am now starting the fourth year of my love affair with Cleveland’s rivers and lake. I absolutely love being out on the water and feeling a calm wash over me. I love watching blue heron birds in the river. I now enjoy going down to Whiskey Island, The Harp, and some of the area beaches to overlook Lake Erie and take in all the action from pleasure craft to freighters to seagulls to the sunset. I feel more connected to Cleveland now than I ever did before. I go for walks in the metroparks along the watershed and kayak in Hinkley Lake as well. In Cleveland, we are very fortunate to have so many parks and waterways to enjoy. Getting out there and experiencing them is the first step in preserving them. I hope that one day, people will not look skeptically when I say I row on the river as if surely I couldn’t mean the Cuyahoga… the same one that burned. The river is not perfect, but has come a long way and I am proud to say I row on it and I encourage others to experience it. Rowing is what began my love affair with Cleveland’s waterways, which continually deepens my interested in improving these resources and the environment.


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