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NC Marks 40 Years of Earth Day

April 19, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - A campus farmer's market at North Carolina State, a trash pick-up drive at Bird Shoal in Beaufort and workshops on "how to green your home" in Concord. These are a sampling of the events taking place around the state this week for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day - officially celebrated on Thursday.

The late Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day when he was a U.S. Senator. His daughter, Tia Nelson, says a lot has been accomplished since then, following passage of the federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Toxic Substances Control Act.

"If you were born after 1970 or 1980, you have an expectation for clean water and clean air that was not a given prior to the first Earth Day."

Nelson says grassroots-type celebrations are exactly the kinds of events her father envisioned, but he wanted the environment to be put in the political spotlight at the same time.

The environment is certainly getting that exposure now, with a renewed push for federal legislation to reduce pollution associated with a faster pace of climate change. Some oppose a cap-and-trade system for pollution control because it could have a negative effect on the economy.

Nelson remembers her father encountered similar resistance when he backed proposals for clean air and water.

"Papa had an expression, a quote he often used, 'The economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around.'"

Gaylord Nelson went to work as a legal expert for The Wilderness Society after leaving the U.S. Senate in 1981.

Listings of North Carolina Earth Day events are available at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NC