I remember the first Earth Day like it was yesterday.
I was a junior at Morse High School in San Diego in 1970. The senior class had announced that no cars would be allowed in the parking lot, encouraging everyone to walk or ride bikes.
The straight shot from where I lived was across rugged canyon with no discernable trails. To get around was about a 4-mile drive, half of it along Paradise Canyon Road, a windy, two-lane road with no sidewalks. I drove my 1968 Mustang to my girlfriend’s house.
We walked about a half a mile along Skyline Drive, which was lined with parked cars. Football players blocked the entrance to the empty parking lot.
The seniors parked a 1957 Chevy in the circular lawn in the middle of campus, the senior lawn. They wrapped the car in loose, clear plastic and let it idle until lunchtime.
Around noon, with the better part of the student body circling the lawn, a few brave souls removed the plastic and let the exhaust escape.
The crowd gasped, many coughed, some held their noses crying “eeeww!” and almost all backed away in chaos.
Frankly, it was a disgusting moment contrary to the spirit of the day. But it drove the point home about how much ugly smoke we put into the air we breathe every day.
The sad thing is that 42 years later, even with more efficient cars, we still do.
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