TIME conflict

Turkey and Armenia Host Clashing Centennial Memorials

ARMENIA-GENOCIDE-CENTENARY
Alain Jocard—AFP/Getty Images Armenian president Serge Sarkissian (2-R), his wife Rita (2-L) and their children arrive for a ceremony at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan on April 24, 2015.

Commemorations of two 1915 events—the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey and the Turkish stand at Gallipoli—have caused tension

More than 60 leaders and representatives from around the world converged on the Armenian capital on Friday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of a period during which more than 1 million Armenians were killed in Turkey. Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President François Hollande both attended the ceremony, while the White House dispatched Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

The anniversary of the 1915 killings, in what was then the eastern edge of the Ottoman Empire, has coincided with a surge in international awareness. In the past month, global icons ranging from Pope Francis to Kim Kardashian (who has Armenian ancestry) have ruffled Turkish feathers by shedding light on the killings and using the term “genocide,” which the Turkish government rejects. And as world envoys gather in Yerevan, similar ceremonies will be held in cities around the world.

On April 24, 1915, the Ottomans rounded up Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul in the beginning of what historians widely consider a genocidal act of bloodshed. In an article years later about a violent Armenian campaign for vengeance, TIME described the killings like this:

During World War I, the Turks exterminated or deported virtually their entire Armenian population because they held the unfounded suspicion that members of the ethnic group were disloyal. The decision to undertake the genocide was communicated to the local leaders by the Interior Minister, Talaat Pasha, in 1915. One of his edicts stated that the government had decided to “destroy completely all Armenians living in Turkey. An end must be put to their existence, however criminal the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to age, or sex, or to scruples of conscience.”

The Turkish authorities rounded up all able-bodied men in the Turkish army and bludgeoned them to death. Intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul were herded aboard ships, then drowned at sea. Armenian babies were thrown live into pits and covered with stones. Women, children and old people were forced to march hundreds of miles, over mountains, presumably to a place of deportation in Syria, but actually to their deaths. Forbidden supplies of food and water, they were waylaid by brigands. Turkish gendarmes raped and sometimes disemboweled or cut the breasts off women before finally killing them. While the horrified U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau Sr., appealed in vain to the Turks to stop the slaughter, hundreds of thousands of Armenians could be seen, as Morgenthau put it, “winding in and out of every valley and climbing up the sides of every mountain.”

But even today, the Turkish government still rejects the “genocide” label and says the killing of Armenians was a casualty of the World War. And to the dismay of Armenians, Turkey is hosting a separate centennial ceremony on Friday: a commemoration of the World War I Gallipoli military campaign, the unsuccessful British and French-led invasion of Turkey that also began in 1915.

The naval operation off the coast began on March 18, a day that is traditionally associated in Turkey with the onset of the campaign. Then, following the failure of the naval bombardment, the allies landed troops on Ottoman beaches on April 25, beginning the ill-fated land offensive. Today that date is observed in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac day, a national remembrance day.

Though the centenary events were bound to be close together, some observers say the timing of the Gallipoli memorial appears to be a deliberate attempt to divert attention from the Armenian anniversary, as it forces the world’s dignitaries to choose one or the other. “It certainly looks like an intentional move by Turkey,” said Thomas de Waal, a historian with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of Great Catastrophe, about the genocide and its aftermath.

Fatih Öke, a spokesperson at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, denied that charge, noting that Turkey has held a Gallipoli commemoration on April 24 since 2003. This year, because of the centennial anniversary, he said, the government invited foreign leaders. “Sorry, we already have this date,” he said.

Still, no matter the motivation, appearances count. “This may rebound against the Turkish government,” said de Waal. “Whereas if they for example had had it on the 25th, then a lot of officials could have gone to Yerevan one day and to Turkey on the next, and that would have been quite elegant.”

A dozen heads of state and five prime ministers were slated to attend the Gallipoli centennial celebration, including Australian Premier Tony Abbott. But with the exception of the British royalty and Irish President Michael Higgins, none are from Western Europe. Hollande’s presence at the Armenian memorial, rather than the Turkish memorial, is particularly conspicuous given France’s central role in the Gallipoli campaign. And though U.S. ambassador to Turkey John Bass was set to attend the Gallipoli memorial, the U.S. is not sending a separate representative from Washington.

Under rising pressure from the international community, the government in Turkey has recently appeared to ease its approach. On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed “deep condolences” to descendants of the Armenians who suffered during that time.

But activists in the U.S. are skeptical that the Premier’s statements represent a long term change in attitude.

“Davutoglu was just trying to deter or derail recognition efforts. There’s no expression of regret, there’s no acceptance of responsibility,” said Aram Hamparian, the executive committee of the Armenian National Committee of America. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they organized this Gallipoli thing to detract attention from the Armenian genocide centennial.”

To be sure, Turkey continues to pressure foreign countries on the use of the term “genocide.” President Recep Erdogan warned the Pope not to repeat the “mistake” of using the word, and the White House remains reluctant to risk relations with a key ally in a tumultuous region. On Tuesday, White House officials informed Armenian American leaders that President Barack Obama would not use the term in remarks on Friday, despite a 2008 campaign pledge and vocal past support from people within his administration.

“While it is essential to ensure that Turkey continues to ‘treat the Americans all right,’ a stable, fruitful, 21st century relationship cannot be built on a lie,” Samantha Power, now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in TIME in 2007.

Read Power advocate for recognizing the Armenian Genocide in October, 2007: Honesty Is the Best Policy

TIME remembrance

15 Great TIME Cover Stories by Richard Corliss

He wrote dozens of cover stories in his 35 years at the magazine

In his 35 years at TIME, Richard Corliss—the influential film critic who died on Thursday at age 71—produced dozens of cover stories, from a look at the television show Dallas to a tribute to the late Robin Williams. Along the way, he turned to vegetarianism, yoga and, most of all, the movies. Here are 15 of our favorite TIME covers for Richard Corliss stories.

Read more about Richard Corliss’s life and work here

TIME medicine

How the Polio Vaccine Trials Relieved a Worried Nation

Between 1954 and 1955, the polio vaccine transitioned from a trial of 1.8 million to a regular feature of life for households across America

JONAS SALK
Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesDr. Jonas Salk examining test tube sample of polio virus used in making his polio vaccine, at Univ. of Pittsburgh.

On April 26, 1954, children at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, held their breaths as needles penetrated the skin of their upper arms. They were the first of nearly two million volunteers in a three-month trial of epidemiologist Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine, which would be deemed safe for general use just shy of one year later.

The day before the trials were deemed a success, in April 1955, LIFE published a series of photos of a nation preparing for wide distribution of the vaccine it desperately hoped would be approved. The National Polio Foundation had 27 million vaccine shots ready for release, to be administered to all first- and second-grade students and children who had received a placebo during the 1954 trial. Pharmaceutical companies, too, had chosen not to wait for the announcement to begin their own frantic manufacturing process.

During the early 1950s, polio cases in the U.S. had surged to nearly 60,000, with around one third rendering victims paralyzed. Given parents’ heightened fear for their children’s health in recent years, it didn’t take long for Salk to be hailed a hero:

Tributes ranged down from a citation from the President and a proposal that he be given a special Congressional Medal of Honor to offers of farm equipment. Newspapers in several cities were raising Salk funds and a U.S. senator introduced a bill to give him an annual stipend of $10,000. Salk, 40, who lives on a University of Pittsburgh research professor’s salary and hopes to increase the effectiveness of his vaccine from 80% to 100%, said he would take no money for himself but indicated it would be used for further research.

In the years since the vaccine’s development, polio has been all but eradicated throughout most of the world, save for a few countries where vaccination is not universally available and prevention continues to be a struggle.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Music

Celebrate New Orleans Jazz Fest With These Photos of the 1940s Jazz Scene

A look back at the musicians who shaped New Orleans and the venues where they developed their singular sound

As the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival kicks off on Friday, thousands flock to the city to pay tribute to the birthplace of jazz and conjure visions of a colorful musical history. Long before Bourbon Street became a hub for tourists weighed down with plastic beads, musicians advertised performances by playing in the backs of wagons, the details of upcoming shows hand-lettered on wooden signs. It didn’t matter whether the venue was a basement club or a neighbor’s living room. The music that emerged from New Orleans had an unmistakeable sound, a confluence of styles that could only have come from the place where the Mississippi River empties out into the Gulf of Mexico.

LIFE’s photographers were there to capture the feeling that accompanied that sound and the people who were creating it. The magazine’s archives offer a veritable who’s who of New Orleans jazz, from Louis Armstrong to Fats Pichon to Bunk Johnson, to the men and women whose contributions are palpable though their names are lost to history.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Science

What Happened to the First Cloned Puppy

Scientists Announce World's First Cloned Dog
Getty Images Snuppy, (R) the first successfully cloned Afghan hound, sits with his genetic father at the Seoul National University on Aug. 3, 2005 in Seoul

April 24, 2005: The world’s first cloned dog, Snuppy, is born in South Korea

It’s fair to say that Snuppy the dog received more praise in his first year than most dogs do in a lifetime. No other pup, after all, has ever been named TIME’s “Invention of the Year.”

Snuppy wasn’t any better behaved than the average puppy, by TIME’s account, which noted that the sight of lamb-flavored treats or a visitor’s arrival sent him “into a frenzy of excited jumping.” But his birth — on this day, April 24, a decade ago — was a miracle of science in itself.

Snuppy was a clone, the first successful one of his species, produced by a team of South Korean researchers from a single cell culled from an Afghan hound’s ear. (His name was an amalgam of S.N.U. — Seoul National University, where the research team was based — and “puppy.”)

Other mammals had already been successfully cloned, from Dolly the sheep in 1996 to CC the cat (short for Copy Cat) in 2001, along with mice, rabbits, pigs, cows and horses. But dogs turned out to be exasperatingly difficult to duplicate, partly because their breeding period was more limited than other species’, and partly because their eggs were not as easy to extract as eggs were from other animals like cows or pigs.

It was thanks to dogged persistence that the Korean team, led by the scientist Woo Suk Hwang, succeeded where others had failed — including an American company that had hoped to win the cloned-dog race. Of 1,095 extracted eggs that Hwang’s team implanted in 123 surrogates, two made it to term and one died a few weeks after birth. Snuppy was the lone cloned survivor.

Hwang, meanwhile, had already made a name for himself as one of the world’s greatest innovators; he’d been listed among TIME’s most influential people the year before Snuppy’s debut. But his reputation began to unravel when he was accused of ethics violations related to his earlier work with a different species: humans.

In 2004, he’d appeared to produce viable stem cell lines from a cloned human embryo, but other scientists questioned his data, and an S.N.U. committee ultimately determined that it had been fabricated. That deception, coupled with the revelation that some of the women who had donated eggs for stem-cell research were Hwang’s own graduate students — an egregious ethical breach — led to his dismissal from the university. Snuppy stayed, however, and remained a beloved campus mascot. In 2008, he fathered puppies of his own, no cloning required.

And while a cloud of suspicion descended over everything Hwang had done, another investigation upheld his canine cloning claim, concluding that Snuppy was, in fact, the real deal — a genuine copy.

Read more about how Snuppy was created, here in the TIME archives: Dogged Pursuit

TIME technology

A Decade of YouTube Has Changed the Future of Television

Technology-Japan-IT-copyright-compnay-Yo
Samantha Sin—AFP/Getty Images www.youtube.com displayed on Aug. 2, 2006

YouTube's first video was uploaded on April 23, 2005

In the 1980s and ‘90s, anyone could turn on their local public access television channel and find moms doing yoga, talk shows focused on beer and local sports, or even strippers and porn stars cavorting between ads for 1-900 numbers (thanks for everything, Robin Byrd). Public access was revolutionary in that it gave everyone access to a broadcast platform—but, sadly, that platform could only reach those with the same cable provider. Neither international fame nor anything close to fortune ever came for those who were the superstars of the medium.

All that changed with YouTube.

The video sharing service posted its first video on April 23, 2005. (That video, Me at the Zoo, has subsequently been viewed 19 million times in 10 years.) YouTube changed everything about television, from public access to major networks. In one decade, YouTube has developed a culture of its own and is a threat to the conventional business model of television—but not in the way world expected.

YouTube was originally created to make it easy to upload videos and post them on blogs, a medium that was then pushing past the fringes of the Internet and into the mainstream. Quickly, YouTube became a destination of its own, one that traditional television producers thought they could harness to tap into the growing power of the Internet. The first clip I ever remember going to YouTube specifically to watch was Lazy Sunday, the first “Digital Short” produced by Saturday Night Live. It went on YouTube, iTunes and a few other websites on Dec. 17, 2005 and was perhaps the first viral video — particularly on YouTube, where it was free.

The Lazy Sunday story exemplifies early fears about YouTube. It racked up 5 million views but was pulled by NBC two months later. (These days you can visit Hulu or Yahoo Screen, platforms that didn’t even exist at the time, to watch it.) In YouTube’s infancy, many television, movie and music companies were worried that users would steal all of their copyrighted material and post it online for free.

That never really came to pass on a large scale. Instead, YouTube evolved as a platform that cooperated with television. For one thing, the company started taking down clips if the owners complained. To this day, it’s still nearly impossible to find a clip from The Simpsons on the site. In 2006, the same year that TIME named “You” the Person of the Year, YouTube entered into a marketing deal with NBC. In 2007 it partnered with CNN to ask the presidential candidates questions that were posted on YouTube and in 2012 it partnered with ABC to live stream the debates directly on the site.

And it wasn’t just a matter of working alongside television: YouTube has become integral to the success of many TV shows as the place where they post clips, highlights, trailers, previews, recaps and other goodies that don’t make their way directly into the show. Just this month Amy Schumer racked up 2 million views with her parody video “Milk Milk Lemonade,” which is really a preview of the upcoming third season of her Comedy Central show.

It’s been a boon for late night programs, the place where many Americans go to watch the antics of Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. Bill Maher does an extra segment of his HBO show Real Time, called Over Time, directly on YouTube. Getting videos to be shared widely is no longer an afterthought, but rather something that is integral to a show’s success and sometimes a means with its own end. Kimmel infamously created a fake “Twerk Fail” video that went viral with 18 million views and then went viral again when he exposed it as a hoax, gaining another 20 million clicks.

But just as television was starting to adapt to YouTube, with networks treating the site as a sidebar, the viewers started treating it more like a public access station. Around 2007, just as television was warming up to the site and the late night shows were gaining attention of viral videos, a new crop of stars started to emerge. With the ubiquity of video cameras in laptops and cell phones and the ease with which people can use digital editing software, it became easy for anyone to start their own YouTube channel and ride it to huge success. PewDiePie, which started in 2010 and is now the largest YouTube channel, with 37 million subscribers, is just a dude making funny voices while playing video games. Tyler Oakley (6 million subscribers, since 2007) just talks about his life and love of celebrities. Bethany Mota (8 million subscribers, since 2009) gained popularity for “haul videos” where she would show people what she just bought at the mall. Using YouTube’s ad-revenue sharing partner program (and even more lucrative endorsement deals), those gurus and stars stood to gain in ways that old-fashioned public-access creators couldn’t.

YouTube started developing its own culture and its own genres, from makeup tutorials and song parodies to GoPro skateboard theatrics and toy-unboxing videos. Television no longer has to worry about YouTube stealing their shows, because YouTube has plenty of shows of its own. YouTube even started calling them “channels” and in 2011 Google spent almost $200 million to launch their own original channels with partners like Madonna, Pharrell Williams, VICE and The Wall Street Journal.

YouTube serves as a source for some of television’s most innovative new ideas. Broad City, originally a web series, made the jump to become one of Comedy Central’s biggest and buzziest shows. Grace Helbig strated a YouTube channel in 2007 while bored at a house-sitting gig and now interviews celebrities on her E! talk show. VICE, the media company whose short documentaries are available on YouTube, just signed a huge deal with HBO to provide a daily news broadcast. Though television may still be more prestigious than the Internet, the creativity is online. And the public access nature of YouTube is starting to bleed onto mainstream television. Just last year, FYI network ordered 13 episodes of a show based on Epic Meal Time, an extreme cooking show that has almost 7 million subscribers.

YouTube is not only the future of television, but also preserving its past. It serves as an online time capsule preserving all sorts of things that we never had access to before. Want to watch an episode of the Gummi Bears, your favorite cartoon from your childhood? Find it on YouTube. Need a refresher on the lyrics to the Full House theme song? Thanks, YouTube. Want to watch all the fights from Dynasty? Thank God for YouTube.

Rather than pirating off and siphoning from television, YouTube serves to amplify it, cultivating our remembrance and interest, giving us reasons to tune in — where would John Oliver be without all the YouTube clips? — and creating ideas for future shows. YouTube has not only replaced public access television, a place where anyone could have a voice, but has perfected it, creating its own ecosystem that is a parallel to television. And these days, with teens thinking YouTube stars are bigger celebrities than the cast of the Big Bang Theory, it’s only a matter of time before public access takes over all the airwaves.

TIME Great Places

See Photos of the Pristine Utah Desert in the 1940s

A look at the western landscape before the Interstate Highway System brought cars full of tourists

Utah’s national parks and monuments were established in the teens and 1920s, but it wasn’t until the mid-century construction of the Interstate Highway System that station wagons began to snake their way through the American West in droves. In 1947, when LIFE dispatched Loomis Dean to photograph the people and animals that called the desert home, it seemed there were still more sheep in the roads than cars.

Dean’s photos, never published in the magazine, capture the future tourist mecca with nary a track in the sand save for the sheep, the shepherds who herded them and the Native Americans who lived there. Though the images are in black and white, it’s hard not to see the rocks as red and the sky, stretching on forever, as blue. There is something quiet about the photos—you can see the wind in the hair of two children on a mule and the blinding sun on a man’s weathered face, but the noise of traffic and industry is miles away.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Food & Drink

Here’s What New Coke Tasted Like

Can of New Coke beverage. (Phot
Al Freni—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Can of New Coke

Thirty years ago, Coca-Cola introduced what seemed like a fizzling new idea

It was, TIME declared, “like putting a miniskirt on the refurbished Statue of Liberty.”

Thirty years ago, on April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola announced that the company would take an unprecedented step in the ongoing cola wars: changing their formula. The secret formula for the classic soft drink would be locked away in a vault, forever, replaced that May with a sweeter pop designed to appeal to changing American tastes.

Prior to the roll-out, the company boasted that the new flavor beat out the classic (and also rival Pepsi) in taste tests. TIME’s food critic Mimi Sheraton weighed in on the taste too, deciding that the new soda wasn’t all that different:

New Coke seems to retain the essential character of the original version in that it, too, imparts faint cocoa-cinnamon overtones and has a balanced, smooth body with no sharpness or overpowering flavor. However, it is sweeter than the original formula and also has a body that could best be described as lighter. It tastes a little like classic Coca-Cola that has been diluted by melting ice. I have always preferred Coca-Cola to Pepsi, finding the latter much too sweet and thin. Most of all, I dislike the citrus-oil flavor I seem to detect in Pepsi. And though the new Coke approaches the sweetness and thinness of Pepsi, it does not have the lemony aftertaste. Therefore, I still prefer Coke. I suspect that those who have preferred Pepsi will continue to do so.

The change was billed as the first in nearly a century of Coke-making (not including the switch from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup, which wasn’t meant to affect the taste). And, as in natural when such a big change comes along, fans were nervous. Even before the New Coke went on sale, consumers told TIME they were nervous that the company would “ruin a good thing.”

Judging by the world’s reaction to the New Coke, those consumers were right: it was only three months before Coca-Cola gave in and brought back Coca-Cola Classic, bowing to pressure from people who were outraged that an American institution had been altered.

But, though the New Coke story has gone down in history as a business and marketing debacle — the president of Pepsi-Cola was quoted in TIME calling it “the Edsel of the ’80s” — that’s not the whole story.

In fact, New Coke wasn’t actually all bad for the company. Coca-Cola denied that New Coke was an elaborate marketing stunt, though that was a popular theory. Still, even accidentally, it worked. Coke’s stock soared when the classic formula came back and even in those anger-filled months between April and July, sales were good: “In May, Coke sales shot up a sparkling 8% over the same month in 1984, double the normal growth rate,” TIME reported. “Some of the increase included sales of old Coke still on store shelves, but most of it was the new drink.” The following year, when the company celebrated its hundredth birthday, it was with reports of sales that continued to climb.

Still, that didn’t keep New Coke (later called Coke II) from one last bit of infamy before it faded into the supermarket shelf sunset: the drink made it to TIME’s list of the 100 worst ideas of the 20th century — right alongside Crystal Pepsi.

Read more about the New Coke story, here in the TIME Vault: Coca-Cola’s Big Fizzle

TIME Television

This Is the Ronald Reagan Speech That Just Showed Up on The Americans

President Ronald Reagan addressing the National As
Diana Walker—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images President Ronald Reagan addressing the National Association of Evangelicals in a speech calling the Soviet Union an evil empire, on March 8, 1983

The episode title — "March 8, 1983" — is a clue

Contains a spoiler for the third-season finale of FX’s The Americans

Anyone who knew the title of Wednesday night’s season finale of The Americans might have guessed that a particular Ronald Reagan speech might make an appearance. After all, “March 8, 1983″ — the title of the episode — was also named by TIME, in 2003, to a list of the 80 days that changed the world.

That was the day on which President Reagan, speaking before the National Association of Evangelicals, delivered what is known as the evil-empire speech.

It was a time of potential change in the history of the Cold War, as advocates of a nuclear freeze or of nonintervention in countries like El Salvador, where a civil war was under way, were turning away from some of Reagan’s hard-line policies. The President took the opportunity of speaking in front of a religious audience to reiterate his belief in the existence of good and evil in the world, and that the U.S. and the Soviet Union were firmly located on opposite sides of that line. The USSR was the evil empire, and in that context, no hard line was hard enough.

At first the speech seemed to have backfired. That April, TIME noted, “Public-opinion polls showed that confidence in Reagan’s handling of foreign and defense policies had actually fallen during his monthlong hard-sell campaign on behalf of those policies” and that some White House officials called it his “Darth Vader speech.”

But, in the end, Reagan got what he wanted: the end of the empire in question.

In an earlier draft of the speech, noted TIME’s Romesh Ratnesar in explaining the speech’s inclusion on that 2003 list, Reagan had distanced himself from the strong language of good and evil. The version he ended up delivering, however, did anything but hedge — and that made all the difference:

His uncompromising rhetoric unsettled members of the Washington establishment, who warned that it would reheat the arms race and threaten peaceful coexistence with the Soviets. But Reagan managed to touch the hearts and minds of those who mattered: the rebels behind the Iron Curtain who ultimately brought it down. Nathan Sharansky read Reagan’s speech in a cell in Siberia. Knocking on walls and talking through toilets, he spread the word to other prisoners in the Gulag. “The dissidents were ecstatic,” Sharansky wrote. “Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth — a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.”

Read original March 1983 coverage of the speech, here in the TIME Vault: Hardening the Line

TIME Environment

How Earth Day Began: With Somber Reflection, and a Few Dump-Ins

Save Your Earth
Lambert / Getty Images An Earth day button, circa 1970

April 22, 1970: The first Earth Day is observed

Born from what TIME described in 1970 as a casual suggestion by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was meant as neither protest nor celebration, but rather as “a day for serious discussion of environmental problems.”

What surprised Nelson — and others — was how much enthusiasm the idea engendered. On this day, April 22, 45 years ago, nearly 20 million Americans took Nelson up on his suggestion and turned out for the inaugural Earth Day events. These cropped up all over the country, on college campuses and in public places — including Central Park and New York’s Fifth Avenue, which was closed to traffic for two hours while 100,000 people staged a quiet, contemplative parade.

A dissonant combination of festivity and somber reflection pervaded the holiday. Environmentalists found themselves transformed into celebrities for a day, suddenly overrun with invitations to share their grim prognoses for the planet. As TIME wrote in 1970:

Ecologist Barry Commoner’s schedule was the busiest, calling for him to rush from Harvard and M.I.T. to Rhode Island College and finally to Brown University. Population Biologist Paul Ehrlich was lined up for speeches at Iowa State, Biologist René Dubos at U.C.L.A., Ralph Nader at State University of New York in Buffalo. In addition, such heroes of the young as Dr. Benjamin Spock, Poet Allen Ginsberg and various rock stars planned to have their say, if not precisely about ecology, then about the joys of the natural life.

Along with educational lectures and nature walks, however, there were livelier, more dramatic demonstrations meant to draw attention to the need for environmental reform. According to the New York Times, some activists held “mock funerals of ‘polluting’ objects, from automobiles to toilets.” Per TIME, students at several schools collected piles of litter and then staged “dump-ins” on the steps of city halls and manufacturing facilities.

At San Fernando State College, a group of students offered rice and tea to passersby as a sample of the “hunger diet” they could expect in the future, when overpopulation led to worldwide famine.

Meanwhile, at Florida Technological University, some students held a mock trial for a Chevrolet charged with poisoning the air. Finding it guilty, they set about executing it with a sledgehammer — but according to TIME, “the car resisted so sturdily that the students finally shrugged and offered it to an art class for a sculpture project.”

Despite — or perhaps because of — their heavy-handed theatrics, these grassroots protests paid off. By the end of the year, Congress had authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

By the following year, Earth Day had grown into Earth Week, and this time it was officially sanctioned by President Nixon. But the festivities were “cooler and saner” the second year, per TIME, which noted, “Instead of noisy confrontations, the 1971 ‘week’ that ended April 25 ran to practical matters, like arranging bottle pickups.”

Read more about the importance of the environment in 1970, here in the TIME Vault: Issue of the Year

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