In 1970 Fred McDarrah captured pedestrians thronging NYC’s streets on the first Earth Day. Along with American flags, the Voice‘s staff photographer was careful to include a fallout shelter sign in his frame.
“‘Sea pirates’ named this land ‘America’ back in 1492. They then proceeded to plunder, pillage, and poison it in the name of progress, as pirates will do. Four hundred and seventy-eight years later, a large group of these so-called ‘Americans’ gathered in New York City for an event meant to send the message that in regard to all that plundering, pillaging, and poisoning, enough was enough. On April 22, 1970, Fifth Avenue was shut down to traffic from 59th to 14th streets. Flyers urged ‘Come on foot, bicycle or roller skates … but leave your car at home!’ People were sincere. They were angry. They were hopeful. They meant it! It was the first (soon to be annual) Earth Day. At high noon, beloved social satirist, science fiction writer, humanist, and self-proclaimed pessimist Kurt Vonnegut faced the optimistic crowd from a stage at the feet of Patience and Fortitude, the marble lions that guard the New York Public Library, in midtown Manhattan. Mayor Lindsay was there, as were Leonard Bernstein, Paul Newman, Ali MacGraw, and many visionary scientists and pandering politicians. The general sense seemed to be that if corporations and regular people just understood the unprecedented damage we were doing to the planet, they would immediately want to change their behavior. (This was proved wrong.) The night before, Village Voice writer Anna Mayo had asked Vonnegut whether the environmental movement was a ‘granfalloon’ or a ‘universal karass,’ the former being a false and meaningless association of people, the latter a much more sincere group (both terms coined by the author in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle). … Vonnegut wrote and spoke for decades about our relentless, merciless destruction of the earth, long before ‘climate change’ was in common parlance. I was sure a man this dedicated to the subject could offer gleaned knowledge and concrete advice. …”
Voice: Kurt Vonnegut “Celebrates” Earth Day
The Origins of Earth Day