Earth Day

Heaven, © Elizabeth G Fagan, lakemichigansleftcoast.com, Lake Michigan's Left Coast

April

“It was a gamble, but it worked,” recalled Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. The late Wisconsin governor and United States senator (D) successfully infused the activism of the late 1960s with such environmental issues as unchecked air and water pollution.

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day, the single voice of 20 million Americans called for increased awareness and policy change. Today Earth Day is observed by over a billion people around the world as a day for environmental advocacy and action.

Water pollution remains a concern in Ozaukee County (WI).* Roughly half the county’s acreage is agricultural; crops are regularly treated with fertilizer containing phosphates. With precipitation, agricultural runoff contains large amounts of eroded, phosphate-saturated soil.

While phosphorus is necessary to plant life, too much flowing into streams, rivers, and lakes creates a highly enriched soup overabundant with algae and other plant life. To address the issue (and others), the USDA created nutrient-management guidelines that prescribe the amount, source, placement, and timing of commercial fertilizers and other soil amendments.

Urban or residential runoff carries fertilizer phosphates, pet waste, oil and gas residues, and other pollutants. To minimize personal polluting, property owners can devise methods of keeping precipitation in place with ponds, rain barrels, and thirsty plant life. They can also tweak landscaping routines to fertilize minimally before light rains and to refrain from fertilizing before summer downpours.


Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigans Left Coast, lakemichigansleftcoast.com
Elizabeth Fagan, Lake Michigan’s Left Coast, lakemichigansleftcoast.com

About the Author

Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides on Lake Michigan’s shoreline in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast.


* Fagan wrote the monthly column “Green Talk” for the News Graphic in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. This essay is from the column’s archives.


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