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Earthrise and the First Earth Day, 50 Years Later

The Earthrise photograph. Credit: NASA

The first Earth Day was celebrated 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970. On that day, millions of Americans participated in demonstrations and clean-up projects, calling for a new approach to protecting the environment. It was meant to be a teaching moment regarding the importance of our role as caretakers of the environment. It continues to serve that function to this day.

In 2019, the Kluge Center and Bruce Clarke hosted an event looking at the legacy of the Earthrise photograph, taken on Christmas Eve 1968, and its relation to Earth Day and the environmental movement. The photo was considered the first to be taken of the whole Earth, and the image of the Earth against the stars was frequently used by environmentalists to highlight the beauty and fragility of the planet.

Bruce Clarke was the 2019 Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology and is Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Literature and Science in the Department of English at Texas Tech University.

Dr. Clarke hosted a panel discussion featuring David McConville, Board Chair at the Buckminster Fuller Institute and the Creative Director of the Worldviews Network, Anne Collins Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Margaret A. Weitekamp, curator at the Space History Department of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and Neil Maher, Associate Professor in the Federated History Department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, Newark.

Participants held a wide-ranging discussion touching on the history of Earthrise and of the environmental movement, as well as the subject of artistic depictions of scientific activity more broadly.

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