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Publisher's Summary

We’ve been celebrating Earth Day for 50 years now, but even the most ardent activists of today would have a hard time picturing the intensity and excitement that the first Earth Day in 1970 brought. Before the first Earth Day, no one used the phrase “environmental movement”. But that first Earth Day - conceived by Gaylord Nelson as a teach-in - sparked an unprecedented conversation about pollution, wilderness protection, sprawl, and more. 

Join Adam Rome, professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Buffalo, as he uncovers the motivation for, and the lasting impact of, a national day devoted to environmental awareness. Discover how the “Green Generation” was conceived by young Americans who had been encouraged to think they could change the world in the 1960s and who were frustrated that the adults of their generation were not addressing pressing ecological issues. 

While current Earth Day celebrations remind us to “go green”, recycle and reuse, and offset our carbon footprints, explore how the original Earth Day had much wider ramifications. Its legacy includes the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act. It also inspired a new generation of entrepreneurial activists who started environmental organizations, became green architects or lawyers, launched eco businesses, and much more. 

The story of Earth Day offers practical lessons about ways to continue moving forward. But most important, it offers inspiration about how one person can start a movement that changes the world.

©2020 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2020 Audible Originals, LLC.

About the Professor

Dr. Adam Rome is Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences. He is author of several books, including The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-In Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation and The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism. He also co-edited Green Capitalism?: Business and the Environment in the Twentieth Century. Dr. Rome graduated from Yale in 1980 with a BA in History and received his PhD from the University of Kansas in 1996.

Our favorite moments from The Genius of Earth Day

Lecture 01, Chapter 02
  • Lecture 01, Chapter 02
The 1st Earth Day
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Lecture 01, Chapter 02
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A new national priority
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Lecture 01, Chapter 02
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Keeping the environmental fight alive
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  • Lecture 01, Chapter 02
  • The 1st Earth Day
  • Lecture 01, Chapter 02
  • A new national priority
  • Lecture 01, Chapter 02
  • Keeping the environmental fight alive

What listeners say about The Genius of Earth Day

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Inspiring and edifying tribute!

I was an environmentally conscious student activist in 1970, and so I looked forward to reliving that environmental segment of activism with this series of lectures. But I did not think I would learn a whole lot new about Earth Day. I was delightfully wrong about this and learned a tremendous amount about people and events I had never heard of who contributed to the lasting success of this extraordinary event. The topics are thoughtfully arranged in the several lectures, and I. thoroughly enjoyed Prof. Rome's evident research and enthusiastic presentation. Most important, Prof. Rome makes a persuasive case for the Earth Day model -- in its conception and execution and its influence -- as a critical component of any vision for preserving our planet in the face of so many daunting threats to our ecosystem and our very civilization. .

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Happy Birthday, Earth Day!

Fascinating story of the origins and transformative power of the first Earth Day, in 1970. Rome tells a compelling tale of how this almost-forgotten event crystallized a national environmental awakening and spurred long-term change. I found listening to these lectures empowering -- in the many stories of individuals who made a difference -- but also depressing -- in considering how much more divisive and irrational we've become as a society. The last lecture, on the legacy of Earth Day, is particularly interesting, in its analysis of what made the environmental movement so effective -- grass roots and Washington elite involvement, combination of education and activism, intergenerational collaboration, and massive media coverage -- and might offer a roadmap for activists today.

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Ridiculously short, but good

It seems strange to include this in The Great Courses series. This could be one or two episodes of a podcast. This could be a chapter in a full course on climate change or the environmental movement. Having a 1 hr 43 min audiobook seems kind of silly. Still, it is an interesting and motivating story to see how, in the 1970s, huge numbers of people came together with passion and accomplished real change to help the planet.

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Empowering & Educational

Adam Rome does an incredible job of illustrating the event that spawned the American Environmental Movement — the first Earth Day (1970). Rome explains the history of Earth Day by highlighting the inspiring stories of specific people in the army of grassroots individuals (from senators to school teachers to students) who took part in organizing the nationwide teach-in event, as well as those whose lives were changed by it. Gives the listener a better understanding of how environmentalism has evolved since the 1970s, and the last chapter does an excellent job of explaining what lessons we can take away from the Earth Day legacy in thinking about modern day environmental activism. Most of all, it was inspiring and empowering. It expanded my understanding of what activism can look like—one that empowers, educates and engages people everywhere. Must-listen for every environmental activist or anyone interested in the history of the American Environmental movement!!!

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Very informative and interesting course!

I listened to this audiobook after reading Adam Rome's book on Earth Day. Just like the book, I love how the audiobook feels like a story that includes both smaller details and big picture ideas. I especially enjoyed hearing you talk about the interviews you conducted during your research. Not only did I learn more about Earth Day than I though there was to know, but this audiobook also gave me ideas for my own environmental activism. Thank you, Professor Rome!

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Rich history with powerful meaning today

Adam Rome does a masterful job of bringing to life one of America’s most impactful moments—Earth Day. Diverse segments of American society came together to insist on the protection of our natural resources and triggered landmark legal protections and the popular modern environmental movement. He brings this story alive by weaving in first-person quotes and rich historical sources drawn from his own original research and scholarship. Importantly, Rome provides insights about this event that have great relevance today as we struggle to address the climate crisis .

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The Genius of Earth Day

This thought-provoking and yet fantastically interesting audible is not only a great academic book that could serve as supplementary reading material in a course on sustainable development, but it is also a material that is incredibly lively and easy to be engaged in. It reveals the historical foundation of one of the most impactful environmental movements oriented towards saving planet earth, through the protection of biodiversity and combating climate change. Using the breadth of information on the range of outcomes of the Earth Day movement, including the formation of national and world agencies with goals to save the natural environment through policies and actions, this audible stimulates knowledge and understanding of the existential need to support missions of the environmental movement as the only way to protect the existence of today’s generations and the life on earth in the future. Using the breadth of information on the range of outcomes of the Earth Day movement, including the formation of national and world agencies with goals to save the natural environment through policies and actions, this audible stimulates knowledge and understanding of the existential need to support missions of environmental movements as the only way to protect the existence of today's generation and the life on earth in the future.

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Fascinating and very insightful environmental history

These lectures unfold like gripping and very human stories that, taken together, convey a stunning history lesson about the environmental movement. Anyone interested in the health of the planet and our democracy will be inspired by this re-examination of the first Earth Day, a triumph of grass-roots organizing that led to previously unimaginable environmental progress.

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A great listen, on Earth Day or any day.

These lively, concise, thoughtful and interesting lectures present a condensed version of Prof. Rome's longer book (of the same title). Both these lectures and the longer book offer the best and most comprehensive history of the first Earth Day, and are based on detailed research and lots of interviews. The lectures are lively and entertaining. They tell great stories about how Earth Day came to be, the people who worked to make it happen, what made it powerful, and what made it work. A great listen.