Actually, Denis has been a lifetime activist. Way back before there was an Earth Day, Denis was embedding the ideas of “Solar Energy” and “Concern for our Environment” in the minds of a generation and around the world.
This 50th Year Celebration of Earth Day prompted many initiatives to address global planet health. Here on the Olympic Peninsula, we chose marine debris/plastic pollution, sustainable agriculture, citizen science, and collaborative research for Total Ecosystem monitoring and planning.
Denis Hayes has created visions and motivations for this kind of work for decades. He was the organizer for the first Earth Day in 1970, an event that mobilized 20 million Americans to action. This year, the Earth Day Network (www.earthday.org) launched nine global campaigns engaging participants in 180 countries. We wish to acknowledge resilience and achievement over time and are prompted to come up with new ideas to mark this 50th celebration of Earth Day and carry the work forward in time on the Olympic Peninsula. “Think globally, act locally.”
Among locally based environmental initiatives, we are creating an annual award to honor environmental activism and achievements on the Olympic Peninsula as activists work for a healthy planet. The celebration for this award will coincide with the September International Coastal Cleanup/World Cleanup Day happening globally, including coastal Washington and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
On my 74th birthday in the year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, I am establishing the Annual Olympic Peninsula Environmental Activist Award. In 2020, the honoree is Denis Hayes. The attributes of his distinction will define our criteria for future awards.
Denis Hayes grew up in a small Southwest Washington town. Both the natural areas he explored and the impact of industrial pollution and rapacious logging on quality of life impacted him. He proceeded to invest in his studies at Stanford, as well as developing the tools of activism on campus. He spent several years backpacking around the world to understand the systems and ways of the world. After his first semester at Harvard, he began work with Senator Gaylord Nelson to organize what became the first Earth Day in 1970, mobilizing 20 million Americans to demonstrate for earth action. This led to impactful achievements in the decade of the 1970s with the landmark passage of major bills to protect clean water, clean air, endangered species and more.
Earth Day 1970 grew into the Earth Day Network, impacting over one billion individuals and 75,000 partnerships globally organized to create a sustainable world.
In his multi-faceted career as an attorney, professor, analyst, board member and CEO, Denis Hayes joined the Bullitt Foundation as CEO in 1992. The Foundation’s mission is to “safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest”. A notable achievement was the building of the Bullitt Center, called the greenest commercial building in the world. It is also the biggest building ever built to the Living Building Challenge, the toughest green building certification in the world. The Bullitt Center is designed to be a model for buildings around the world.
In future years, when we seek to honor the Olympic Peninsula Environmental Activist of the Year, we will be looking for folks who are characterized by the attributes Denis Hayes embodies. We see Bold and Creative Thinking, Inclusiveness, Broad View and Attention to Detail, and Sustained Work Over Time. In 2020, the 50th year of Earth Day, we salute Denis Hayes!