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YOUTHFUL FERVOR OF 1970 LACKING IN 1990 SEQUEL

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Somehow, the sequel seldom measures up to the original. And Earth Day plus 20 fits that pattern.

Two decades later, the Earth Day replay dwarfs the 1970 version. Sunday's demonstrations are on an international stage and scale; organizers hope that 200 million people will be involved, 10 times as many as in the first Earth Day.But for political-environmental impact, that first one won't be matched. It was a demonstration of youthful fervor with a counter-culture flavor, and it dramatized the rise of environmental concerns toward the top of the U.S. political agenda.

Politicians who hadn't seen the issue coming grabbed on as it went by, and the federal framework of environmental agencies and laws quickly took shape - under a Republican administration.

It was a classic exercise in movement politics, one that became a case study for years afterward at the Harvard Business School.

The replay has something in common with the brief, photogenic events that have become central in American election campaigning. It will feature celebrities, stunts and gimmicks along with the heavier fare of advancing an environmental agenda of changing, moving targets.

The environmental movement has matured; while it still poses challenges to the establishment, still counts radicals along its fringes, it has become part of the establishment. That also makes them subject to the priority debates and bargaining rules of the federal government.

That wasn't the atmosphere surrounding Earth Day 1970, which had the tone and some of the tactics of the student demonstrations of the time. It was the era of teach-ins and mass marches protesting the war in Vietnam. Both were adapted into that event, with its march and rally in Washington, mass meetings in other major cities, plus cleanups, tree plantings and countless other events around the country.

The timing was right. It was channeled spontaneity, aimed at a receptive government. The demonstration of public sentiment gave environmental legislation a big push.

Bush issued a proclamation designating today as Earth Day and saying it should bring rededication to environmental protection. The first Earth Day wasn't proclaimed by anybody except those who staged it.