Gaylord Nelson, Father of Earth Day : Bridging the Gap from Conservation to Environmentalism
Jones, Clayton R.
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Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day, an important event in American environmental history. Nonetheless, there are significant gaps in the scholarly analysis of Nelson's overall contributions to the conservation and environmental movements. For the most part, scholars have focused on Earth Day itself, arguing that Nelson's brainchild was a watershed moment for Americans who worked for and cared about protecting the natural world. Consequently, their focus tends to be on Earth Day and subsequent contingent events in conservation history. While important, Earth Day would not have been as important as it was without the specific guidance and insight provided by Gaylord Nelson. This paper considers the senatorial career of Gaylord Nelson from 1963-1970, placing his work in context by briefly examining the history of American conservationism and environmentalism from 1864. I argue that while Earth Day was, in fact, a critical event, its significance is best seen in the light of what happened that day but also by what preceded it. It turns out that the real importance of Earth Day lies in its precursors as well as the events that followed, and that Gaylord Nelson was a singular figure in American history due to his unique abilities to build coalitions and bridge gaps between people and institutions of disparate beliefs and values.
Nelson, Gaylord, 1916-2005--Influence
United States. Congress. Senate--Biography
Nature conservation--United States--History