Before noon on the morning of April 22, 1970 — the first Earth Day —
20 million people had taken to the streets across the country in what was both
a protest against pollution and a celebration of the planet. Their passion had
been ignited by a widely televised disaster that occurred here in Southern California
18 months before. Drilling by the Union Oil Company, later Unocal, five miles
off the shores of Santa Barbara, caused an explosion that sent a steady pulse
of oil spreading out across 35 miles of coastline, paralyzing and killing sea
birds, otters and dolphins for an entire month. The carnage horrified everyone
who glimpsed it in person and in the news. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson
reacted almost immediately. On the plane from visiting the spill, it occurred
to him that in the age of teach-ins no one had yet held one on the environment.
Back in Washington, Nelson, who had been an outspoken advocate for the environment
since 1962, launched a campaign to set aside a day to honor the Earth and promote
ecology. The initiative was a huge success; some credit it with the passage
of landmark federal anti-pollution laws such as the Clean Air and Water Acts.

The environmental movement has changed some since then — for starters, no one
is organizing national protest marches 20 million strong, despite a federal
administration aggressively hostile to established laws protecting our natural
resources and glaciers retreating at epic speeds. While we try to figure out
why that is, we can still participate in any number of worthy local events spread
out over Earth Day weekend. A non-comprehensive list is below. Next year, though,
let’s hire some buses to the streets of D.C. and let the dark forces of evil
know we’ll put up a fight if they try anything tricky. (We will, won’t we?)


North East Trees and local Audubon chapters expect more than 150 volunteers
to show up for their Earth Day weekend reforestation project, so it should be
a good party: Volunteers can plant native shrubbery in the splendid Arroyo Seco,
learn about drought-tolerant local plants and acquire techniques for how to
free them of the exotic intruders on their turf. Bring sunscreen and a hat,
a container for water and determination — restoring local habitat can be tough
work, but it makes just about everyone who does it happy. Join the Earth Day
festivities at the Audubon Center in Debs Park after the event. Sat., April
23, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Debs Park, 4700 N. Griffin Ave., Los Angeles. Call (323)
441-8634 or write
to RSVP or for more information.

ECO-MAYA FESTIVAL at the Los Angeles Eco-Village

Since 1995, Earth Day Eco-Maya has been celebrating Gaia with the culture of
the Maya, while educating the masses in the latest achievements in renewable
energy and sustainable living technologies. If you have yet to experience the
glorious Eco-Village, now’s the time: There’ll be music, dance, art and food,
as well as the ceremonial cooking of the largest tamal in the world;
what may be the biggest gathering of marimba performers, a very diverse group
of folklórico? dancers; a film festival and art and spoken-word exhibit, rock
en español performers, a traditional arts and crafts fair
and lots of delicious ethnic foods. Plus the coolest people you’d ever wanna
meet. 117 Bimini Pl., Los Angeles. Call (323) 960-7879 or visit
for more information.


Pre-walk program at 7 a.m. A two-mile walk begins at 9:15 a.m. and ends at 11
a.m., with a tree-planting ceremony at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.
Meet at City National Plaza, Fifth and Flower Sts., downtown.Call (213) 593-8010
for more information or go to


Help Heal the Bay’s Stream Team restore the Malibu Creek Watershed. Meet at
Malibu Creek State Park, 5.5 miles up Malibu Canyon Road from PCH, Malibu, 9
a.m. Bring drinking water, hat and boots that can get wet. RSVP to
or call 1-800-Heal-the-Bay.

CHILDREN’S EARTH DAY at the Ecostation

A tropically themed outdoor event featuring interactive environmental activists,
Earth-friendly vendors, live performances and a special appearance by Tom Kenny
(the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants). Sun., April 24, 10 a.m–4 a.m. 10101 W.
Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. For more information call (310) 842-8040 or visit


With Ed Begley Jr., Adeline Peter Raboff (director of the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge documentary Oil on Ice) and other guest speakers.
Fri., April 22, 6–10 p.m.; Sat., April 23, 3–10 p.m. at the Art Complex, 1900
Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Full schedule at


Help restore native habitat and clear debris from beaches and parks in and around Los Angeles. Earth Day cleanups have been scheduled starting at 9 a.m. for Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, Will Rogers State Park in Topango and Crystal Cove in Orange County. To signup, send your name, county, and phone number to or call 1-888-98-PARKS.

LA Weekly