The secret history of Earth Day
If 40 years of Earth Days have taught us anything, um … While the Earth Day movement has had undeniable successes, critics charge that, uh … Whatever, screw it. Here’s the “real” story (with jokes!):
1970: Twenty million Americans celebrate the first Earth Day, but bloggers opine that it’s just a fad and will be quickly forgotten by those “stoned-out hippies.”
1971: Nixon White House looks forward to second annual celebration, which it refers to internally as “Pay Less Attention to Vietnam Day.”
1972: Green ring added to official Olympics logo in attempt to “green up” the upcoming Montreal summer games.
1973: ExxonMobil signs on as Earth Day’s first corporate sponsor. A furious Wendell Berry coins the word “greenwashing” in his poem, “The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Rant.”
Flickr: BrockLi1974: Francis Ford Coppola edits out scene from “Godfather II” in which an enraged Michael Corleone orders that a mob soldier be killed for polluting Lake Tahoe with dead bodies.
1975: To conserve gas, The Grateful Dead invite their fans on a summer-long acid trip instead of their customary concert tour.
1976: A peanut farmer from Georgia wins vegetarian vote in Democrats’ spring primaries after noting that nuts are a great protein substitute.
1977: “Airport ’77” raises awareness about ocean dumping by sinking a 747 in the Gulf of Mexico.
1978: Willie Nelson trips over solar panels on White House roof after sneaking away from a presidential Earth Day celebration to smoke some organically grown pot with Agriculture Secretary Robert Bergland.
1979: Oil shock leads to major price hike in polyester clothing; coincidentally, disco music hype peaks and quickly fades away.
1980: U.S. Olympic Committee claims carbon credits earned by sitting out the Moscow Olympics.
1981: President Ronald Reagan makes his notorious claim that “trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” Replaces Sequoia National Forest with Sequoia National Automall in plan to “get the polluters off our backs.”
1982: Britain’s military celebrates Falklands victory with huge “penguin bake” on the beach.
1983: Residents of Worth, Ill., crushed to learn they’d been hearing it wrong and nobody was celebrating them.
Photo courtesy Alternative Classix1984: U.K. pop musicians collaborate on “Do they know it’s Earth Day?” benefit song before finding more success with Christmas version.
1985: Coca-Cola times release of “New Coke” for the day after Earth Day in hopes that hungover greens won’t notice doubling of high-fructose corn syrup in recipe.
1986: McDonalds introduces McDirty, an earth-flavored milkshake.
1987: In first appearance of “The Simpsons” cartoon on Tracey Ullman’s show, Lisa swears off meat until Bart gives back her Malibu Stacy doll.
1988: Michael Dukakis clinches Democratic presidential nomination; green movement set back by four years.
Flickr: Amnestic Arts1989: Madonna commissions signature cone bra made from all-natural Bugles, pleasing both corn growers and her male fans.
1990: Rival Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons both wear green uniforms in crucial playoff game, causing much confusion and an NBA-record 87 turnovers on bad passes.
1991: Oil discovered beneath the football field at Bayside High School. After much excitement about the California school’s newfound wealth, Jessie teaches Mr. Belding and the gang a valuable lesson about choosing wildlife before money.
1992: No special events this year, as everybody had too much other stuff going on.
1993: President Clinton sends Vice President Al Gore to Kyoto climate talks to get him out of town so Gore won’t notice when Clinton caves on including a BTU energy tax in his first budget plan.
1994: Little-noticed “Contract With America” provision announced on Earth Day: “Republican Congress will replace Clean Air Act with market-based ‘pay-per-breath’ scheme.”
1995: Ford unveils Excursion TL (Tread Lightly), its nature-themed SUV. It includes a pine green exterior, prairie-grass beige interior, and a best-in-its class 7.5 miles per gallon.
1996: Years of scientific research are lost when Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin sneak into the biologically sealed Bio-Dome project, mistaking it for a mall, and try to convert researchers to their free-spirited, hard-partying ways, with hilarious results.
1997: MotherSuds, the first earth-friendly dishwashing detergent, introduced. It works terribly, setting back green home-product sales by a decade.
1998: Enviros burn blue dresses in D.C. protest after word comes back that Ken Starr sent Monica’s blue dress to a non-eco-friendly dry cleaner.
Flickr: Anirudh Koul
1999: Backstreet Boys test new organic hair gel in eco-themed concert. Fans complain they can tell the difference.
2000: Al Gore shows off his new “earth tones” wardrobe at Tennessee Earth Day rally.
2001: In bid to curtail population growth, The Netherlands becomes first nation to allow same-sex marriages.
2002: George W. Bush confuses environmental and education proposals, gives passionate “No Forest Left Behind” speech. His pre-screened Republican audience cheers wildly.
2003: Hollywood drops plans for fourth installment in Terminator series, tentatively titled “Rise of the Green Machines.”
Flickr: sushi the great2004: Seattle clothing company Utilikilts introduces all-hemp man-skirts, further confirming nation’s belief that Northwesterners are weirdos.
2005: Labor Secretary Elaine Chao issues statement that animated e-cards, despite eliminating paper waste and postal service fuel and being occasionally cute and/or hilarious, don’t count. Especially for Mother’s Day.
2006: After getting an email forward, everybody agrees not to buy even one drop of gasoline for one day in protest of high prices. Long-haul truckers end up stranded in Davenport, Iowa, but gas prices drop to 40 cents a gallon.
2007: Hawaiian Earth Day observers honor the recently departed Don Ho with “world’s largest lei” stunt; public nudity arrests soar before college-age revelers are told it’s spelled L-E-I, not L-A-Y.
2008: Voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio celebrate Earth Day by giving Hillary Clinton big wins in their respective Democratic primaries.
2009: Grist launches “Screw Earth Day” campaign. Millions of lazy people realize one day isn’t enough, get their act together, and Earth is saved faster than anyone expected.