Earth Day 1970 Part 10: Earth Week 1of3 Philadelphia (CBS News with Walter Cronkite)
Articles,  Blog

Earth Day 1970 Part 10: Earth Week 1of3 Philadelphia (CBS News with Walter Cronkite)


– [Walter] One of the
biggest Earth Day observances was in Philadelphia, where
an estimated 20-40,000 persons gathered in perfect weather in the city’s largest park. It was an Earth Day success story: a major demonstration in a major city. But, it did not come easily. There were many organizational problems, including a heated controversy over whether to accept financial aid from industries causing pollution. David Culhane followed
the Philadelphia story from its start to today’s
colorful demonstration. (upbeat hippie music) – [David] Fairmount Park
in Philadelphia today. As much like a rock music festival, as a teach-in on the environment. A few older people, a few
blacks, and some of the poor. But, mainly white,
middle-class young people. As much aroused by the
music, as by the damage done to the environment by pollution. This is Philadelphia on Earth Day. ♪ Welcome, sulfur dioxide ♪ ♪ Hello, carbon monoxide ♪ – [David] “Welcome, sulfur
dioxide. Hello, carbon monoxide.” A song from the worldwide
hip musical, Hair. It was one of the first hints suggesting that young people are beginning to care as much about the environment, as they do about the peace
movement and Civil Rights. Their dream for the Age of Aquarius was to let the Sun shine
in, let the Sun shine in. This is what keeps the Sun from
shining in on Philadelphia. Hundreds of tons of soot,
smoke, fly ash, dust, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, metal fumes, organic matter, odors and
malodors on each and every day. And it all comes from places like this: the city’s top ten polluters. Power plants. Oil refineries. The city incinerators. Chemical plants. Coke ovens. Smelting operations. And that’s just in the air. The city’s rivers offer a whole
new dimension of pollution. So much noxious waste is involved, that some people have
begun to call their city: “Filthy-delphia.” But, it’s pretty much
what you would expect to find in any major American city. Public reaction against this kind of thing caused a comparatively small group, mainly college students,
to try and put together not just an Earth Day, but
an Earth Week to arouse the city about the
problems of pollution here. It wasn’t a simple job. They encountered several difficulties. The first problem for the
Earth Week Steering Committee was to find out precisely who is polluting the air and water around Philadelphia, and how they’re doing it. The fact that the municipal incinerators ranked (static) in those of local industry. But the city finally came around. – [Edward] OK, what happened
with the city today- this morning, was we met with Dr. Ingram, and he copped to it. We’re getting all the
pollution information that the city has, information that’s been confidential for the last four years. So, I think, you know, we did a thing. We really made it there. – [David] But once have they made it, what should they do with this information? A direct attack on industries that pollute as student committees
planned in other cities? Marches? Demonstrations?
Or should the committee seek money in cooperation from industry and the Chamber of Commerce? The decision was not easy for a committee naturally disposed toward direct action. – The Chamber invited us to a meeting. We spent three days here
in these offices meeting. Trying to decide whether
we should go at all. Would we be co-opted by business? Would- by accepting money, by accepting anything from business;
would we not be diluting our effort completely? We finally decided to go
and see what would happen. – [David] What happened was
that the Earth Week Committee finally did decide to accept money from the very companies
which are polluting Philadelphia’s air and water. The business establishment
and a student committee. Certainly and unorthodox alliance. – So with the 20- $324,000 which we have actually
collected of the $34,000 that’s actually been pledged and the $45,000 that we seek
to achieve, here is an additional check to
you, Ed, and to Austan. Which I’d like to turn over to you at this stage of the game. – [David] It was a tentative,
rather uneasy alliance. The Earth Week committee
said it would not sponsor marches and demonstrations
against the industries. The Chamber of Commerce called off plans for a counter-attacking
advertising campaign. And the Chamber agreed
to encourage its members to acknowledge any of their operations that cause pollution. And to discuss programs for a clean-up. And the Earth Week Committee was left free to publicize the activities of the polluting industries. At one less-than-successful
Earth Week rally, at the University of Pennsylvania, some students made clear their objections to accepting money from
companies which are polluters. – If I remember correctly,
around the beginning of the Earth Week
Committee, there were talks about trying to have at least one activity during Earth Week somewhere in proximity to the refineries so that there could be a people’s march toward the refineries. And it seems that this has changed. And I’m wondering if
there’s any correlation between the change and the check from Atlantic Richfield, or is it the Chamber of Commerce check. – And that comes around
to a problem that I think Earth Week has to face up to. Which is where do the bulk
of their funds come from? And what does that do to
their ability to really face up to fundamental issues. – [David] But most of the people working to make Earth Week a
success were apparently satisfied that the time has not yet come for a direct confrontation
with the polluting industries. These young people wearing gas masks to dramatize the dangers of polluted air, simply went ahead campaigning
for a clean environment. And there were expressions of delight that some 30% of the
projected Earth Week budget of $70,000 is coming from businesses. Delight that the money is being used to publicize how these same
businesses cause pollution. The young people built exhibits downtown, and passed out clear springwater and surgical masks to
symbolize the dangers of polluted air and water. The objective was to
reach masses of people from every part of the community, including the blacks of
Philadelphia’s ghettos. Some members of the black
community responded. But, attempts to enlist
black leaders got nowhere. – What the blacks said to us was that, “by joining you, we fragment
our own power base.” The head of one of the
largest black groups in the city, one of the most powerful black leaders in the city,
came to this meeting and said, “you’re part of the Nixon trick.” “You are basically doing
what Nixon wants you to do.” “Take energy away from the black issue, take energy away from the war issue, and take everybody’s
attention onto ecology.” “You can’t be everything to everybody. You’ll end up being nothing to anyone.” – I don’t think we are really committed to get involved in Earth Week, you know, up to our necks, because-
see, we still have hungry children to feed, and we still have houses to try to build. And I think we still have
a commitment to people that don’t really about Earth
Week to try and explain it. I think we’re taking the emphasis off the beat-up buildings,
and the whole problems that go along with
living in the inner city. So I’m figuring that we don’t really have a part in this because
the polluted streams that they’re talking about
we’ve never seen anyway. The trout- I don’t know if they’re dying, we’ve never seen that. I know the rats are bigger here. If we mean polluted sewers,
I’m able to play with that. – [David] So, the environmentalists and the black community
agreed to disagree, and go their own ways. But, at least the cautious alliance with the business establishment has more or less worked. Earth Week has advertised into windows of oil companies, and
some other businesses. The city government is
in a cooperative mood, although hardly participating
with the zest shown, for instance, in New York.

4 Comments

  • EliseS

    I am in this video, I am wearing a gas mask, handing out flyers on Broad Street. In watching the entire clip I am present to how determined we all were, what a stand we had that we would be the ones to change the future of the planet. We did make a difference, but we have a long way to go!

  • EliseS

    Thanks so much! When I look at myself (I am on the video from 6:21 to about 6:44), I am so clear it was the genesis of my commitment to have my life make a difference!

  • dak Wolf

    I generally don't like hippies, but without a doubt, what was done, was needed and needed desperately.  Those of you, who like consultnet1 went out and fought for a better world, have my greatest respect.  Thank You.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *