Wednesday was Earth Day but much of the celebration is happening in Sitka this weekend. Today (after school) we had the 14th annual Parade of Species. Kids dress up as their favorite animal or plant to crawl, slither, run or cross pollinate down Lincoln Street. At the beginning of the parade route representatives of the 4 H club and the Sitka Conservation Society interview the participants, ask them what they are and why. One kid said:
“I am a bird.”
“What kind of bird?”
“An ANGRY bird.”
Perhaps the parade interrupted a video game. At the end of the parade there were awards for the best costumes made of recycled materials, the best costumes representing local species and the most creative. Then the kids could go to various booths to learn more about Sitka’s conservation organizations, including the park service, and the Raptor Center, which had birds for the kids to meet.
Wednesday was the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day. I was on the air and interviewed Mary Wood, the 4H Coordinator who helped organize the parade. Around the interview I played music from my first Earth Day program on WCAL in 1970. Back then I was in grad school and held two jobs. One was as a Graduate Teaching Associate. I taught the introduction to radio and TV production and was faculty advisor to the student radio station. I also did the night news shift on WCAL and at midnight did an hour long folk show. My two jobs presented challenges on that first Earth Day.
Earth Day was originally billed as a teach-in, which meant that students expected to get a day off to attend activities to educate them about the topic of the teach-in. Most teach-ins were either related to the Viet Nam War or the civil rights movement although at times we had an omnibus “Free Speech” teach ins. The department decided we would not cancel classes but would teach about Earth Day topics within scheduled classes. These were the days before the Internet. I looked where I cold for material on environmental reporting but did not find much. So I had my normal class on cutting tape telling students they could go out, collect natural sounds and edit them into nice sound collages. When they finally learned how to report on environmental issues, with their tape cutting skills I told them they would be on the cutting edge of environmental reporting. I got away with it.
Doing an Earth Day program on the radio was more difficult. There were lots of Civil Rights and Viet Nam songs but not a lot of environmental protest songs. For the second Earth Day there would be plenty (Marvin Gaye had recorded “Mercy, Mercy Me, the Ecology” and John Denver had gotten in on the act.) I did have Pete Seeger’s “God Bless the Grass” and “1969 Clearwater Revival” albums and lots of Malvina Reynolds records. The program was almost completely those two artists with three other songs, Dylan’s “Hard Rain” (it was a long cut of dubious applicability but it took up 10% of the program),Tom Paxton’s “Who’s Garden Was This?”, and Don McLean’s “Castles in the Air” from Don’s little known first Album, before “American Pie.” Not a lot of variety but I got away with that too.