Denis Hayes, National Coordinator for the first Earth Day, looks back on four decades of progress by the environmental movement.
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, Hayes believes the movement has made significant strides forward on making people more aware of environmental issues. “Beyond any doubt,” he says, “today the basic core values are vastly more ‘green,’ if you will, than they were in the 60’s and 70’s.”
Hayes points to Earth Day and the celebration’s emphasis on education as a main reason behind the shift in awareness. “We’ve created a generation of environmentally literate students,” he said. “In the vast majority of schools in the United States, the third week in April is when you study environmental things and go on field trips and you learn [about the Earth]. … And that has now been a common part of the public discussion for long enough that it is internalized into people’s consciousness.”
Hayes was the national coordinator of the first Earth Day, and he served as a WRI board member from 2000 to 2009. He is currently the President and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation.