The Secret History of Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Now let's talk about what really matters: how meetings played a crucial role in its creation.

To tell the story, we need to (a) consult the University of Wisconsin’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and (b) travel back to Sept. 20, 1969, when, during a speech to “a fledgling conservation group in Seattle,” Sen. Gaylord Nelson proposed that the United States hold “a national teach-in on the environment to send a message to Washington that public opinion was solidly behind a bold political agenda on environmental problems.” He repeated the idea “six days later in Atlantic City to a meeting of the United Auto Workers.” The idea picked up steam, became the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and eventually spread around the world.

But for our purposes, it’s enough to know that Earth Day happened because someone with a good idea had a forum in which to express it — a meeting. Or two meetings, as the case may be. And, on this 40th Earth Day, we here at Convene take some comfort in the fact that we recently retired our Green Meetings department because specific initiatives to make meetings and conventions more environmentally conscious have become, if not common, then certainly not unusual. They’re just not news anymore.
We keep this up and pretty soon we won’t need Earth Day at all.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.