Earth Day conference celebrates Wisconsin's contributions to environmental progress

February 25, 2010

It was, according to American Heritage magazine, "one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy." The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, inspired 20 million people to participate in environmental "teach-ins" across the United States. The Nelson Institute's annual Earth Day conference, April 20-21, at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, will mark the 40th anniversary of that day with a special celebration of Wisconsin's contributions to environmental progress. Environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., author Margaret Atwood, SC Johnson chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson, Wilderness Society president William Meadows, and environmental justice scholar Dorceta Taylor will be among the featured speakers. The celebration includes a free public concert, "Ecotones: A Musical Ecology of Wisconsin," at 8 p.m. April 20 in Madison's Overture Center for the Arts. The performance will offer contemporary compositions about Wisconsin's environment by musicians from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wisconsin has long been a leader in environment and conservation--home to visionaries such as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson--and a laboratory of innovations in environmental ethics, law and policy, institutions and research that have contributed to national and global environmental protection and quality of life. The first Earth Day realized the goal that Nelson set for it: to put the environment firmly on the national agenda. Today, Earth Day is observed annually in almost every country on Earth. The April conference will revisit the popular movement that launched an era of environmental reform by surveying a broad range of current environmental issues and envisioning a more just and sustainable future. The event also forms part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Nelson Institute, established in 1970 and renamed for Gaylord Nelson in 2002. Several prominent alumni of the institute will be on the program. For complete details and to register for the conference (required for all program activities except the "Ecotones" concert), visit Earth Day.