Nation: A Memento Mori to the Earth

IT had aspects of a secular, almost pagan holiday—a sense of propitiating an earth increasingly incapable of forgiving what man has inflicted upon it. Much of Earth Day was festive and faddish; yet it touched the American imagination with a memento mori, a vision primitive as trilobites and novel as the idea of a windless, uninhabited earth orbiting on.

Thus, when Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic for two hours, 100,000 New Yorkers walked up and down in an eerie quiet. In vacant lots, on roadsides from Boston to Sacramento, schoolchildren gathered up beer...

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