Posted by David
My first Earth day occurred exactly 2,370 days from my first day on Earth. Encouraged by a combination of the then infantile environmental movement (proffered by both my government school and television commercials), an older (second grade) friend down the street, and a puerile desire to make an impact, I jumped on the bandwagon, at least for the day.
As you may know, the current environmental movement – now with global warming as its capstone – gained purchase circa 1970. I remember having to make an anti-pollution poster in the second grade for which I won honorable mention. (The only reason I didn't win the grand prize is that I waited until the night before it was due and THEN sprung the requirement on my parents. This was before the 24hr convenience stores and all we had was a partial piece of poster board. Therefore my entry did not meet the size requirements and could not win 1st place.)
So me and two friends voluntarily participated in the first Earth Day: April 22, 1970. I was in the first grade. We selected an undeveloped lot in our suburban Atlanta subdivision and proceeded to pick up all the litter and, I suppose, eradicate all environmental hazards on this third of an acre. My friends and I picked up all the litter, scrap wood, metal, and other building materials on the lot. We did this alone and without mentioning it to anyone. We were not seeking fame or recognition, we merely wanted to do our part to save the planet.
As with all boys we soon were hungry and thirsty. Then a moment of stupidity occurred. Looking back all I can say is “Duh!” but I'm sure it seemed like a great idea at the time. We dug up a root of some sort, convinced ourselves it was edible, and set out to eat it. Apparently I ate most of it or maybe all of it. By the time I heard my mom calling for me to come to dinner: “David, David” – this was hands-to-the-mouth-to-form-a-megaphone, open-air call, from the back deck of our house about four houses away, and long before cellular phones. I walked home will a full stomach and possibly a satisfied feeling. I remember worrying about telling my mom how I had “already eaten” and spoiled my appetite.
As expected I did not eat much dinner. I may have not eaten anything at all. I remember laying down on my bed, still in my clothes, with that unmistakable feeling that I'm about to vomit. It did not take long. Thinking quickly I dumped the contents of my metal bedroom trashcan on the floor and began filling it with a partially-digested root. Serves me right. This is how I spent the rest of the night and my parents made me go to school the next day.
I was seven years old during the first Earth Day. Those of you my age or older will remember some of the first environmental television commercials. Probably the most well know was the “crying Indian” commercial starring none other than “Iron Eyes Cody”. The visual was a canoe-bound Indian navigating a river with all sorts of polluted backdrops, the audio is a dramatic drumming on a tom-tom – a wonderful effect. The culmination of the commercial is someone throwing a bag of trash out of their moving car. The bag hits the ground and explodes at the feet of the Indian. He turns his face towards the camera to reveal a single (large) tear from his right eye. It begins to slide down his cheek while an ominous – unfortunately pre-James Earl Jones voice – says “People start pollution, people can stop it”.
What if I told you this commercial was a hoax or at least hoaxish? The Indian was no native American but instead a Sicilian-born immigrant portraying an American Indian. The tear was not naturally occurring lachrymal water but instead a drop of glycerin. (Hat tip to a friend of mine for making me aware of this mis-perception. I did want to believe him so I verified it with www.snopes.com. Apparently it's true.) Although this was only recently brought to my attention I have to ask “Was my body trying to tell me something all those years ago?”