It is fitting that the opener of GreenSportsBlog’s Earth Day at 50 series has a strong Wisconsin flavor to it.
GSB was thrilled to talk with Badger State native Tia Nelson, managing director of climate for Outrider, a foundation that works to build a world in which people live without fear of climate-induced catastrophe or nuclear annihilation. She is also happens to be the daughter of the founder of Earth Day, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.
We discussed “When The Earth Moves,” a short documentary co-produced by Outrider. The film highlights Senator Nelson’s role in the birth of Earth Day and also looks to, per Outrider, “reclaim the original vision of Earth Day and sends an urgent bipartisan message during a time of national crisis.”
Nelson also talked about Outrider’s partnership with Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher, environmentalist and GSB fave Brent Suter. His first-person account of his green goals for 2020 is live on the Outrider site and also appears today in a separate GreenSportsBlog, Earth Day at 50 post.
On April 22, 1970, the New York Yankees dropped to a dismal 5-10 record¹ after a 2-1, 18 inning road loss to the Washington Senators² before a sparse gathering of about 6,000 at RFK Stadium.
While that marathon defeat was the most notable happening in Washington that day for the 11 year-old, Yankees-addicted me, the goings on about two miles to the west drew a much bigger crowd and left a much more lasting impression on the nation and the world.
Hundreds of thousands marched on the National Mall in the shadow of the Capitol to celebrate the first Earth Day. This was the result of a proposal made about a year earlier by Senator and environmentalist Gaylord Nelson (D-WI).
Fast-forward 50 years to today and it is clear that the apple didn’t fall far from the Sugar Maple, Wisconsin’s state tree.
Senator Nelson’s daughter Tia has amassed an impressive environmental and climate track record. She spent 17 years with The Nature Conservancy as a policy advisor for Latin America and then, as the first director of its Global Climate Change Initiative. Upon her return to the Badger State, Nelson served as co‐chair of Wisconsin’s Task Force on Global Warming. As Outrider’s managing director of climate, she works to “inform and inspire people to take action to solve climate change, the biggest environmental crisis of our time.”
Nelson and Outrider played key roles in the production of “When The Earth Moves,” a documentary short film that is being screened this Earth Week at virtual events and festivals, including the Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit and the EarthX Film Festival.
Trailer for “When The Earth Moves”
“I feel especially compelled to tell my father’s story at this unique moment in history,” Tia Nelson said. “He worked tirelessly his whole life to build an inclusive Earth Day movement, and today, 50 years later, the job is not yet done.”
There is indeed a lot of climate work to be done, but some environmental seeds planted by the elder Nelson, who also served as Wisconsin’s governor, have born fruit.
“Many children wrote to my dad on the eve of the first Earth Day, expressing their concerns about the environment,” recalled Tia Nelson. “Some of those kids ended up dedicating their careers to improving it.”
Senator Nelson, a Democrat, worked across the aisle on green issues as he believed that the environment should not be part of the partisan fray. That spirit of bipartisanship was on display during his 1968 senate reelection campaign when he was praised at a banquet as “the nation’s #1 conservationist” by none other than Vince Lombardi. The iconic Republican-leaning coach of the Green Bay Packers had retired in January 1968 after winning Super Bowl II³.
Despite being a die hard Packers fan (aka Cheesehead), Tia Nelson pivoted to baseball when it came to finding Outrider’s first Sports Ambassador. Not surprisingly, she stayed in Wisconsin, turning to Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter.
“Brent Suter is simply an extraordinary human being,” Nelson marveled. “He impressed me with his deep commitment to taking environmental action and through his ability to connect with a broad audience that the environmental movement normally does not reach. Brent lives his values and is a poster child for how to play a big role in climate solutions.”
Suter has authored several articles for Outrider.org in his role as Sports Ambassador. GreenSportsBlog is happy to run his most recent piece, “New Season, Same Green Goals,” to celebrate Earth Day at 50. It was written before the coronavirus pandemic shut the 2020 Major League Baseball season down, at least for the time being. Here’s hoping that we can safely and intelligently have baseball this year.
¹ The 1970 Yankees rebounded from that ugly start to finish with an impressive 93-69 record. That was good enough for 2nd place in the American League East, 15 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, the eventual World Series champions.
² The Washington Senators left for Dallas after the 1971, becoming the Texas Rangers. The nation’s capital was without major league baseball until 2005 when the Expos left Montreal to become the Washington Nationals. The Nats won their first World Series championship in 2019.
³ Lombardi’s Packers defeated the Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II in January 1968. A year earlier, the Pack took Super Bowl I with a 35-10 drubbing of the Kansas City Chiefs.