THE EARTH SOCIETY FOUNDATION
by
HELEN GARLAND
Chairperson



When John McConnell proposed the idea of an Earth Day celebration at the moment of the March Equinox in 1970, Dr. Margaret Mead and a ready to-made support system were already in position at the United Nations to understand the inspiration and logic of that idea.

Chairperson Helen Garland

In 1967, the then-Foreign Minister of Sweden (Olof Palme) and his colleague, Mrs. Alva Myrdal, a member of the Swedish Parliament, proposed that the United Nations convene the first global conference on the Environment. Lars Engfeldt of the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations was assigned to follow this proposal from its beginning to the final conference – Stockholm 1972. It so happened that Mr. Engfeldt witnessed the first Earth Day on the Equinox (March 21, 1970) during a commemorative UN program in San Francisco. He has been a strong link ever since.

By the time of the second celebration at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 21, 197l, all those who had assembled to prepare the agenda for the Stockholm Conference were in position to support the concept. Dr. Margaret Mead was the elected Chairperson of the NGO Preparatory Committee, joined as early as 1968 by Sir Peter Scott and Richard H. Pough of the World Wildlife Fund, David Brower of the Sierra Club, Harold Coolidge, Susan Reed and myself of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Jeanne Goodwin, and Walter Bogan of National Audubon, and a host of religious, scientific and educational non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Senators Pell, Case, Javits and Fulbright, Shirley Temple Black and Ambassador Glenn Olds of the United States were deeply supportive, as were their counterparts from all over the world. Ambassador Keith Johnson of Jamaica was the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, with the most brilliant and effective support of UN Secretary-General U Thant’s Science Advisor, Guy Gresford of Australia.

Our current President, Thomas C. Dowd, was assigned to follow this subject as a United Nations intern at this same time. Without exception, this assemblage understood the genuine universal symbolism of an Earth Day celebrated at the United Nations on a date with equal significance to all living things – the Equinox.

Confusion developed when others initiated another Earth Day a month later on April 22, 1970. Dr. Mead had written that the Equinox Earth Day was the first Holy Day which united all and offended none. She thought it appropriate to have the United States Earth Day on April 22, as well as a global Earth Day on the Equinox.

In a spirit of happy co-operation, Dr. Mead invited the students of the Riverdale School in New York City to join the American Museum of Natural History on April 22, at the 1971 Earth Day Symposium. A month earlier, as Chairperson of the NGO preparations for the UN Stockholm Conference, Dr. Mead had assisted students from all over the world to celebrate the March Equinox Earth Day ceremonies as they prepared for the first International Student Conference on the Environment in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in June 1971. Our current board member was effectively involved with Dr. Mead in these early events.

One of the incorporators of our Earth Society Foundation was Captain Anthony Keasbey, who taught a remarkable biology course at the Riverdale School in New York. He brought the Explorers Club into support of Dr. Mead’s UN efforts. He had skippered the ship which tracked the whales for the team of Dr. Roger Payne and his wife who recorded the first “Songs of the Humpback Whales” in 1969.

The astronauts had shown us a picture of us – our Earth as it appeared to them from space. That ephemeral vibrant green and blue orb became the symbol and the flag of our Earth Day on the Equinox.

These were the support systems already in place by 1970.

The logic of designating Earth Day as a moment of equal impact for all living things on this Earth seemed to have escaped those who provided much greater funding for a day with no such significance. How could Senator Gaylord Nelson have allowed such logic to be obscured?

In retrospect, it is clear that funding for the April non-Earth Day came from the very corporations which did not want environmental considerations to add to the cost of their production or any global oversight, much less control, over their business by the United Nations.

That is why the Earth Society Foundation has voted to accept no such funding for Earth Day on the Equinox. And that is why we need the financial and other forms of support from each of you who visit our web site. We have learned not to allow our Earth Day at the United Nations to be co-opted, confused, or diverted from our only focus – the symbolic and actual validity of the chosen moment – the Equinox.