Wednesday, 03 April 2013 23:15
Old hippies don't die, they just lie low until the laughter stops and their time comes round again.
— Joseph Gallivan
By Joe Romano, Marketing Manager
In the late sixties and early 1970s when GreenStar was founded, hippies ruled the world. Oh yeah, man, there were straight-looking presidents and bankers; cops and crossing guards played their parts so they wouldn't wig-out the "straights," but the hippies were really running things. Most of the stuff we hold near and dear now was either created by hippies or it was stuff hippies let slide on through. Everything else is pretty much conservative conspiracy theory, like Skull and Bones, television, etiquette, and the World Bank. Seriously, though, by the sixties, the foundations for the world as we now know it had already been laid thanks to proto-hippies like Einstein and Jesus.
Einstein's theories had led to quantum mechanics, and in order for that to jibe with his theory of relativity, Einstein noted uncomfortably that some "spooky action at a distance" had to be taking place in the midst of our everyday reality. In other words, according to the quantum theories being proposed, events taking place here could have an instantaneous, simultaneous effect on events taking place elsewhere. This concept was too much even for Einstein, who ultimately rejected quantum physics because he did not believe that locality could be fluid in this way, and when he jumped ship, it cast a pall over all of quantum mechanics and its freaky theories.
So, while a bunch of hippies were buying grain and founding the awesome institution and co-op we call GreenStar, another group of underemployed hippie quantum physicists calling themselves the "Fundamental Fysiks Group" met in coffee shops near the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Northern California, to talk about a subject so crazy nobody else in mainstream science really wanted to touch it: the idea of entanglement, that things were connected in ways we could not easily perceive, leading perhaps to psychic and even paranormal phenomena. They were asking questions like: "Do subatomic particles influence each other from a distance?" and if so, "What are the implications?"
Meanwhile, yet another bunch of peaceniks were meeting at a UNESCO convention in San Francisco. One among them, John McConnell, inspired by the ideas of peace and love proposed by a certain sandal-wearing son of a carpenter, also put forth the idea that we are all connected when he proposed the very first Earth Day. His Earth Day, the Spring Equinox Earth Day, was held on March 21, 1970, and was celebrated by the United Nations and in countries around the world. McConnell chose this day because of the balance of day and night and because the sun was aligned with the equator, resulting in a sort of equilibrium and harmony. He also devised the Earth flag to commemorate the event.
The Fundamental Fysiks Group went on to study the some of the flakier aspects of modern physics. "Virtually every member of the group had PhDs from very elite programs," says MIT science historian David Kaiser in his book, How the Hippies Saved Physics. "They weren't just leaning back and saying, 'Hey man, can you dig it?'" Instead, he says, "These folks had to show people the goods, pages of calculations in papers they submitted to peer-reviewed journals." One member of the group, Fritjof Capra, wrote a spaced-out physics book in 1975 entangling the quantum weirdness they were studying with the Tao of Eastern religions. The Tao of Physics became a runaway bestseller with millions of copies in print in dozens of languages throughout the world. Today the book is used to entice students to the field of quantum physics.
While the influence of Eastern religion served to reinvigorate an interest in the interconnected nature of particle physics, John McConnell, the founder of Earth Day, was forced to turn the other cheek. Just a month after his successful international event, a senator from Wisconsin decided to have his own Earth Day on April 22. Asked where he got the name, Senator Gaylord Nelson responded that "Earth Day" was "an obvious and logical name" suggested by "a number of people" in the fall of 1969, including both "a friend of mine who had been in the field of public relations" and "a New York advertising executive," making no reference to the worldwide event held only weeks earlier. According to an organizer:
We're going to be focusing an enormous amount of public interest on a whole, wide range of environmental events, hopefully in such a manner that it's going to be drawing the interrelationships between them, and getting people to look at the whole thing as one consistent kind of picture, a picture of a society that's rapidly going in the wrong direction that has to be stopped and turned around.
It's going to be an enormous affair, I think. We have groups operating now in about 12,000 high schools, 2,000 colleges and universities and a couple of thousand other community groups. It's safe to say I think that the number of people who will be participating in one way or another is going to be ranging in the millions.
Senator Gaylord Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as founder of Earth Day and is generally thought of as the creator of the environmental movement. By the end of that year, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, and by 1975 it had banned the insecticide DDT and Congress had passed the Safe Drinking Water Act and set emissions and efficiency standards for vehicles. According to the EPA, "Public opinion polls indicate that a permanent change in national priorities followed Earth Day 1970. When polled in May 1971, 25 percent of the U.S. public declared protecting the environment to be an important goal, a 2,500 percent increase over 1969."
According to the Mother Nature Network, by 2010, Earth Day's 40th anniversary, more than one billion people in more than 180 countries around the world were estimated to have celebrated, whether by attending events or simply spreading the word on Facebook. Over 80 percent of people now name the environment as a top priority.
The Spring Equinox Earth Day event is still held annually. Ever since the United Nations signed the Earth Day Proclamation written by McConnell in 1970, the Earth Society Foundation has rung the U.N. Peace Bell at U.N. Headquarters in New York to mark the occasion.
Here at GreenStar, our freak flag will fly for Twelve Days of Earth Day, from April 11 through 22! We will celebrate our connections to our community, our bioregion, our planet, and our universe by our involvement in dozens of Earth-entangled events. Highlights will include a visit from Mayor Svante Myrick to commemorate a recycled-art opening by GIAC youth, two screenings of the movie Bag It! at Cinemapolis and Cornell's Uris Hall, GreenStar's Tough Turtle team effort and sponsored obstacle race to support the Ithaca Children's Garden, and much, much more! See page 11 for details. Oh, and we will have some of John McConnell's Earth Flags available, too.
As for the Fundamental Fysiks Group? It seems that an all-pervasive field made up of Higgs bosons or "God Particles" was proven to exist just weeks ago, finally affording an explanation of how we and the things around us take form, and proving that "spooky action" is indeed taking place all over and throughout the universe. The Berkeley hippies were right to ask the questions that no one else would, because the answer is that we all are one life form called the universe that is all connected. In the words of Ian Sample of The Guardian:
Scientists now know that Higgs's extraordinary field ... played a key role in the formation of the universe. Without it, the cosmos would not have exploded into the rich, infinite galaxies we see today. The spinning disc of cosmic dust that collapsed 4.5 billion years ago to form our solar system would never have been. No planets would have formed, nor a sun to warm them. Life would not have stood a chance.
Seems like those hippies — all of them — knew what they were doing after all. Happy Earth Day, Month, and Year from your friends, neighbors, and fellow travelers at GreenStar.
By Laura Buttenbaum,
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