AARP Eye Center
You and your team inspired 20 million Americans to take part in the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970. How did you pull it off?
We persuaded reporters to write about it and put our mailing address into articles. A week later, a flood of mail would come in. When we wanted to communicate, we'd mimeograph 50,000 copies, stamp them and send them out. Slow, but it worked.
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And the idea really struck a chord.
The response was remarkable. There was dissatisfaction with the way the nation was developing. You couldn't see more than two blocks in some cities because of the air pollution. Places we used to swim and fish had “No swimming, no fishing” signs due to water pollution. Rivers were on fire. Breathing the air in places like Los Angeles was like smoking two or three packs of cigarettes a day. People began to think, There's something wrong.
What's your most amazing memory of that day?
Climbing up on a platform 60 or 70 feet in the air, in New York City, and speaking to a crowd that was like the sea stretching out ahead of you. It swelled on forever. That was the first time I had the sense this was something enormous.