Forty years ago Tom Smith was a University of Wisconsin student. He was also the student organizer for the first Earth Day event which kicked off on April 17, 1970 and ran for an entire week.
Then, as now, Tom was kind enough to invite me to speak Tuesday at Monona Terrace. It was a heady experience sharing the dais, on the eve of Earth Day, Tuesday night April 21, 1970, with Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), Senator Mike Gravel (D- Alaska), Boyd Gibbons, Secretary to U.S. Council on Environmental Quality and of course the rock band, Oz.
I made my own small effort by introducing a resolution in the city council that proposed banning the internal combustion engine. That went nowhere.
I suggested using methane as an alternative fuel. That is finally making some progress.
Our fledgling movement to create a pedestrian, bicycle, and transit mall of State street took a small step forward as the blocks between Park Street and Lake Street were shut down for fair exhibitors.
Unfortunately the issues, as learned over the past four decades, are even more challenging. The oceans rise from global warming and those oceans are filled with thousands of square miles of floating debris, mostly plastics which are gradually degrading from the effects of sun and water into the seas that feed much of the world's population.
At the time, Senator Nelson was asked who could we afford to clean up the environment. He responded by asking "How could we not afford to clean the environment?'
Today our society is divided. One side looks at the externalities. They examine the price of contamination that entire nations pay for an unregulated environment.
The air and the water are not free. Not when the cost of obtaining clean air and water is mounting daily for most people.
For centuries, in every nation it was recognized that while a stream might run through private property the landowner had no right to poison the water that an entire community needed for survival.
It is time for modern society to conserve that principle. That is what I will say this coming Tuesday. Some things do not change.