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The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation Hardcover – April 16, 2013

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rome presents the first comprehensive study of how Earth Day came about, what transpired on April 22, 1970, and why the inaugural Earth Day became “a transformative event.” By combing through vast archives and interviewing organizers and participants, Rome recognized that the key to Earth Day’s phenomenal success and lasting influence was the fact that it was not born of a well-established movement. Sure, voices were being raised in support of wilderness and against pollution, and the counterculture was rejecting consumer culture and heading back to nature. But it took the vision of Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin to bring it all together by proposing “a national environmental teach-in.” Rome tracks the evolution of Nelson’s “environmental ethic” and tireless efforts to mobilize people across the country to plan homegrown actions. Rome describes the frenzied and smart tactics of Earth Day organizers, the astonishing array of 13,000 events, and the pivotal roles women played and follows the world-altering ripple effects. Let’s hope Rome’s excellent and invaluable Earth Day history helps rev up the grassroots engine for positive change once again. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Adam Rome's genial new book . . . brings to life another era. We're as distant from Earth Day as the Battle of Gettysburg was from James Monroe's reëlection, and Rome evokes a United States that feels, politically, like a foreign country . . . In Rome's view, the original Earth Day remains a model of effective political organizing.” ―Nicholas Lemann, The New Yorker

“A fascinating treatment of both environmentalism and the structure of activism at the time.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Rome's retelling of the hopeful origins of Earth Day and its early successes contain an important lesson for today. The social movements and anti-war crusades that swept through the country in the 1960s and '70s and the movement to promote respect for the natural world demonstrate the tremendous power of activism and grass-roots organizing.” ―The Post-Courier (Charleston, SC)

“This is not just history―it’s a highly useful guidebook for anyone trying now to summon the same passion and build the same movement that shook up the world in 1970!” ―Bill McKibben, author of Home and Away: Jail Cells, Beehives, and the Fight for a Working Planet

“Adam Rome has written the first serious history of the largest demonstration in American history―and it is likely to be the definitive one. His wise and captivating narrative explains the roots and remarkable success of Earth Day and should be required reading for anyone who struggles to prevent climate change today.” ―Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang (April 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809040506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809040506
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,267,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Earth Day, historian Adam Rome, explains, was not just a feel-good day in April of 1970. It was an extraordinary, grassroots teach-in that involved hundreds of thousands of people all across America, influenced them deeply, and essentially served as a boot camp for the modern environmental movement. I've long heard about Earth Day, but not until I read this terrific history did I begin to grasp how a single event could have such tremendous influence.

I found the chapter about the "prehistory" of Earth Day to be especially enlightening --as it explained the political and social context for the event's success. (It was a day whose time had come!) Senator Gaylord Nelson's hands-off approach, Rome argues, gave event organizers the opportunity to take ownership, and they did.

Rome showcases some of the organizers and events, providing many case studies, to demonstrate how places as diverse as Miami, New York, and Birmingham framed their events based on the values and issues in their own communities. There were lectures, parades, theatre, demonstrations, music, and panel discussions. Rome argues that the mass-educational event pressed people to truly grapple with mounting issues and with how to address them --and the experience for many, especially the organizers, was utterly transformative and empowering.

As I read, I was surprised to realize how bad environmental conditions were in some places, before the passage of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts --laws that we now take for granted. However, I was also somewhat appalled to realize that people were struggling 40 plus years ago with the same issues we continue to face today.

Rome's thoughtful attention to Earth Day does a great service in capturing the vibrancy, inspiration, profundity, and significance of this historic event.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a baby-boomer I lived through the first Earth Day as an adolescent -- yet was amazed, page after page, at the breadth and depth of the original movement. Even as someone who thought he was familiar with Eco-history, this book was a revelation.
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Format: Hardcover
Adam Rome makes a strong contribution to environmental history with this in-depth look at the people and passion that launched one of the most overlooked events in modern U.S. history. It's fascinating, in this bitterly partisan time, to read about how broad and bipartisan the support for more stringent environmental protections was at the time, and how less cynical people were about their own capacity (and the government's) to change things for the better.

As Rome notes, a misperception of Earth Day was that it was just a bunch of people protesting. Instead, he shows what a remarkable feat of grassroots organizing it was, as well as an effective educational "teach-in" event with long-lasting impact on the lives of those who took part.

"The Genius of Earth Day" shows that "ordinary" people really can make a difference. This should be required reading for anyone who cares about how to mobilize the public around our looming environmental crisis, climate change.
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By Susan F on September 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I didn't know anything about the start of Earth Day before picking up this engaging and enlightening book. Rome does a terrific job of taking you back to the early days of dawning environmental awareness and the assortment of characters and motivations that helped create not just the first Earth Day but the modern environmental movement. The book is gracefully written and filled with judiciously chosen details, making it a must-have for any "green" bookshelf.
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