By Sheila Cohen
Earth Day creator Gaylord Nelson comes to vivid life in the newest addition to the Badger Biographies series for young readers. Accessibly written and richly illustrated with historic images, Gaylord Nelson: Champion for Our Earth includes a glossary of terms, sidebars on World War II, DDT, and several facets of the environmental movement, plus activities and discussion questions.
Born in Clear Lake, Wisconsin, in 1916, Gaylord grew up as immersed in his parents’ political work and community service as he was in playing practical jokes and exploring the natural world surrounding his home town. Along the way he encountered experiences that would shape him in fundamental ways: as a man who stood up for what he believed in the face of opposition and yet who also understood how to treat his opponents with respect. Both traits would serve him well as he rose from law student to state senator to Wisconsin governor and finally to three terms as a United States Senator.
Nelson fought to treat all races equally and to condemn McCarthy era paranoia, but his greatest contribution was to sound the alarm about another battle: the fight to save the natural world and the earth itself. It was his idea to use teach-ins to let people know that the environment needed their help. Thanks to him, more natural resources were conserved and new laws demanded clean air and water. Now, every year on April 22, people all over the world plant trees and pick up litter to celebrate Earth Day. The Earth and its inhabitants aren’t safe yet, but Gaylord Nelson demonstrated that even one person can help to save the world.