by Diane Larson

“This planet is threatened with destruction and we who live in it with death. The heavens reek, the water below are foul, children die in infancy, and we and the world which is our home live on the brink of nuclear annihilation.” Professor Barry Commoner, biologist. Taken from a news broadcast with Walter Cronkite after the first Earth Day celebration in 1970. Cronkite was examining the failures and successes of the first Earth Day celebration of the new National holiday.

Among the counterculture that reigned in the United States during the late 1960s to early 1970s, “Earth Day gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page,” says EarthDay.org.

The idea for Earth Day came from U.S, Senator Gaylord Nelson. According to EarthDay.org, Nelson became inspired to form an Earth Day “after witnessing that ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.” But his love of the land and concern for our planet earth to back farther.

Well before the oil spill of 1969, Nelson was an environmentalist. Born in 1916 in the North Woods of Wisconsin, he grew up loving the beauty of the Wisconsin land, and the progressing politics of the state. He got his law degree and went into politics.

According to www.nelsonearthday.net “Through the 1950s, residents [Wisconsin] had grown increasingly concerned with their crowded and dilapidated state parks, the exploitation of public resources by private industry, and the pollution of the state’s waterways. Nelson promised comprehensive reforms and was elected to two terms as governor. In office, he established unprecedented high levels of public funding for education, healthcare, unemployment, highways, and urban and rural development.”

Senator Nelson attempted many things to get the politicians of the day to take up the banner and work with him towards positive changes.  He would go from state to state to discuss the evidence he witnessed of environmental degradation. The other politicians would not get on board.

In 1963 he even took President John F. Kennedy on a five-day eleven state tour, showing the president what was occurring across the states, hoping to get Kennedy’s support. In this initial effort, he did not succeed. 

However, Nelson did get the attention of the American people. Americans saw what was happening to the environment. With the president’s tour a bust, the senator continued to find ways to heighten environmental awareness. 

In 1969, Nelson was on a speaking tour. Concurrent with his talks on the environment, there were demonstrations across the nation, on college campuses, against the Vietnam War. They were having “teach-ins” in college campuses to enlighten people about the war. These movements against the war were growing rapidly and were infused with the energy of the youth across America.

Tapping into this idea of protest, teach-ins and harnessing the energy of the youth seemed to be the answer that Nelson was looking for. He borrowed those concepts and established a grass-roots movement that protested what was happening to the environment. The idea was to generate enough concern that it would force itself into the political agenda of the day. 

What Nelson discovered was what Indian children’s activist, Kailash Satyarthi understood, “The power of youth is the commonwealth of the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present, and our future. No segment in the society can match with the power, idealism, enthusiasm, and courage of the young people.”

The senator’s bet on the energy of our campuses across America and the youth paid off. On November 30, 1969, The New York Times published an article by Gladwin Hill and it contained the following. 

“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environment ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned…”

Senator Nelson announced his intent to organize a nationwide grassroots movement on behalf of the environment and invited the nation to participate. The first Earth Day exceeded his expectation. 

The first Earth Day happened. There were over 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and communities all came together for the cause. About this first Earth Day, Senator Nelson said, “That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself”.



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Thursday, April 12, 2018 - Speaker Ryan headed for the exit. Also, on the rundown: From California, almost 400 safety violations in offshore oil facilities

since 2015; we examine the stakes in Medicaid work requirements; and proposal to better prepare 9-1-1 dispatchers for guiding CPR.



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Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - Want the odds of Facebook being regulated? Stay tuned. Also on the rundown: teachers in Arizona stage walk-ins to demand higher pay and Washington is the first state in the nation to reduce bias in jury selection.





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Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - The FBI raids the office, home and hotel room of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and Trump cries foul. Also on the rundown: we take you to a state that ranks near the bottom for pay equity for women, and another where businesses want to help preserve wildlife funding. 


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Big Sky Connection


Eric Tegethoff

April 10, 2018

HELENA, Montana - It takes women more than 15 months to earn what men earn in 12 - but pay inequality is not the only discrepancy Montana women face in the workplace.

Today is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how far into 2018 a woman would need to work order to make the same amount a man did in 2017. Data from the U.S. Census show the 2018 wage gap between women and men is about 20 percent.

President of the National Organization for Women, Toni Van Pelt, explained that pay inequality impacts women through their entire careers - affecting vacation time, retirement savings and other aspects of life.

"Equally as important is that if women are kept in a state of constant economic insecurity, they are more liable to feel that they must put up with sexual harassment and sexual assault, in the workplace and in their education," Van Pelt said.

According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, women in Montana who work full-time have median annual earnings of about $33,000, the third-lowest in the country. Treasure State women make about 70 percent of what men in the state make, which is also the third-highest gap in the nation.

Van Pelt noted the pay gap is worse for women of color, with black women earning just 63 percent of what their white male counterparts are paid, and Latino women just 60 percent. She added she is troubled by how slowly the gap is narrowing.

"When we first started talking about this, the average, full-time working woman was earning 59 cents, on average. So, in 55 years, it's only closed by 18 cents," she said. "That's a rate of less than half a penny a year."

The Institute for Women's Policy Research gives Montana an overall grade of "D" when it comes to employment and equality.