Why Earth Day’s Roots Matter for Today’s Growers
Every year, I’m lucky to celebrate Earth Day with a special family connection: its founder, Gaylord Nelson, was one of my grandfather’s best friends.
This year’s Earth Month just came to a close, and I’m reflecting on how Nelson’s philosophy of empowering individuals to influence widespread environmental awareness and change inspires our work on crop health at Enko.
To understand that philosophy, let’s start with a bit of history. Gaylord Nelson was the governor of Wisconsin and a U.S. senator who cared deeply about environmental causes and spent his whole career fighting for them. His vision for Earth Day was for grassroots groups from all over the country to join forces with a shared goal: increasing awareness and activism around environmental issues and their societal impacts. He consciously avoided a centralized, top-down planning approach because he wanted each community to have the opportunity and autonomy to address the issues most important to them.
This approach led to 20 million Americans celebrating the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, but the impact went far beyond that. Throughout the following decade, Congress began to heed and address ecological issues much more seriously, passing landmark environmental legislation including the Clean Water Act. The U.S. also formed the Environmental Protection Agency.
For me, Nelson’s Earth Day approach resonates with our goals at Enko. He believed in educating and empowering individuals to drive change instead of dictating change from the top down. Core to this philosophy is trusting communities to create or call for the solutions they need instead of settling for the status quo or accepting solutions handed down by leaders.
I see parallels in Enko’s work to provide farmers with safe and effective crop health solutions that they urgently need. Around the world, farmers continue to use crop protection chemicals that have been recommended for removal from the market for safety or environmental reasons. This is not because farmers don’t care about safety or the environment–it’s because they have no other options to fight devastating pests and diseases in their fields. But safer molecules exist, waiting to be identified and brought to market. Like Nelson sought to create broad environmental change by empowering individuals, we want to help create a resilient food system by giving farmers more choice in the tools they need to do so. In this small way, it’s an honor to honor his legacy.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Enko collaborate on novel crop protection.
First in a series defining commonly used concepts and phrases relating to modern agriculture.