Earth Day founded by Wisconsin native - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Earth Day founded by Wisconsin native

Photo provided by: Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association Photo provided by: Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association

Sunday is Earth Day and it was started by a Wisconsin native and senator. Gaylord Nelson is the founder of the international Earth Day movement. 

Nelson was born in 1916 in Clear Lake Wisconsin. He quickly moved up the political ladder after earning his law degree at the University of Wisconsin and then becoming a state senator, then to a two-term Wisconsin governor, and then a U.S. senator for 18 years. 

Nelson cared about Earth and its long-term well-being. Nearly half a century after the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, nearly one billion people in more than 192 countries participate in the annual global day of service for our planet, according to the Wisconsin Foundation & Alumni Association.

Despite successfully sponsoring the Wilderness Act of 1964 to preserve federal lands, he had trouble convincing his fellow senators to heed his continual wake-up calls about environmental concerns.

Then came the first Earth Day: a grassroots day of education and service that engaged some 20 million Americans of all ages.

He believed the world’s problems are intertwined and policies to protect the planet should not supersede other major problems. “Our air, water, soil, forests, oceans, rivers, lakes, scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, minerals — that is the wealth of the country,” he said.

Nelson earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. A research institute at UW–Madison and a wilderness area in northern Wisconsin are both named in his honor. He died at age 89 in 2005.

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