Earth Day in the Ancient City

Earth Day in the Ancient City 4Over the years, St. Augustine has hosted a huge variety of festivals, celebrations, and events. The unique colonial atmosphere and comfortable climate draw a wealth of people from all over the world looking to participate in everything from concerts to historical reenactments. There has been no lack of diversity in the types of events held in and around the city, as everything from the reenactment of Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 Raid to annual Minorcan Cultural Festivals have captivated locals and tourists alike. It should be no surprise then that the Oldest City celebrates Earth Day annually as well. Every year since 1990, St. Augustine has partaken in Earth Day events, expressing support for environmental protections, ecological sustainability and awareness, as well as our native wildlife through a series of community events held throughout town.

Earth Day began as a celebration itself twenty years earlier, first held on April 22, 1970. Its roots, however, lay during the early 1960s as public awareness of environmental issues began to become more common. This was due in large part to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, an environmental science book that was critical of the use of synthetic pesticides in the post-World War II United States, particularly DDT. Notably, Carson linked the pollution of the environment to public health and safety, igniting a large activist movement. The 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill was the ultimate catalyst for Earth Day, as people across the country and world witnessed the effects of a massive oil well blowout, which killed thousands of animals and garnered massive media coverage. This coverage and the resulting public outrage resulted in Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin working with environmental activists to organize a day for recognizing public consciousness regarding the Earth, its natural resources, and the environment. It has been held every year since in the United States. By 1990, it had become a global phenomenon, with 141 other countries around the world also participating in Earth Day festivities. Now, more than 190 are involved in global celebrations.Earth Day in the Ancient City 5

The recognition of Earth Day in St. Augustine as previously mentioned began in 1990 with a proclamation from Mayor Kenneth Beeson. Alongside his proclamation, community entities stepped up to host educational exhibits and events around town dedicated to heightening environmental consciousness. Places such as the Castillo de San Marcos, the Ponce de Leon Mall, local state parks, and others involved themselves, and for the most part, remain connected to modern festivities. Such organizations and locations have hosted numerous exhibits over the years produced by notable participants like the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and the Sierra Club. To this day, these two groups have been massive supporters. The Alligator Farm in particular has shown its support by educating the public on all sorts of scaly creatures that call Northeast Florida home. Local nurseries and farmers markets have also been long-time participants in St. Augustine’s Earth Day Celebration, providing plants and various environmentally friendly items for purchase. Local bands have also been a consistent staple in St. Augustine Earth Day celebrations, as have educational programs on recycling and sustainability. Historic reenactors and local schools, such as Mill Creek, Ponte Vedra-Palm Valley, and R. B. Hunt all have also been consistently involved in Earth Day events around St. Augustine.

While Earth Day’s focus is on growing awareness within the community about the environment, it has also served to help bring more of the community together through a series of events, exhibits, displays, and incentives for educational institutions. Since 1990, it has been an important event within the St. Augustine community, inspiring and involving participants from both the general public and a variety of educational and academic institutions… including the St. Augustine Historical Society!

Earth Day in the Ancient City 6

 

Sources Consulted

“Getting Back to Our Roots…” by Tiffany Aumann in the St. Augustine Record; April 20, 2001

St. Augustine Record; April 23, 1990

“The History of Earth Day” at https://www.earthday.org/history/

Written by Robert Covert