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In honor of Earth Day, this week in history brings you events from the great outdoors! Whether you are a baseball fan, a climate activist, or just looking to learn more about history, this week in history has something for everyone! This week I chose to focus on the events that have impacted our environment for better or worse. Using the Community History Archives, I have found pieces from when they happened that provide a local perspective of these worldwide events.

The Digital and Information Age (2000s – Present): Paris Climate Agreement Signed, 2016

On April 22nd, 2016, 195 nations signed the Paris Agreement. The Agreement was created at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris earlier that winter. It is a legally binding agreement aiming to mitigate climate change’s effects worldwide. Some features of the agreement include reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and financing developing countries’ mitigation efforts. While it was signed on April 22nd, it went into force on November 4th of that year. 

The Paris Agreement works on a five year cycle. Every five years, each nation must submit an updated National Climate Action Plan, also called the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)  detailing their progress and goals for the next period. While they are encouraged to create and submit Long Term Strategies, they are not mandatory as the NDC’s.

I selected this topic because I am currently learning about it in one of my college classes, and I wanted to see what more I could find out about it. I started by searching for just “Paris Agreement” in the Cedar Rapids Public Library Community History Archive (CHA), which turned up a whopping 18,000 results. I then looked at the top results and pulled out words that weren’t relevant. Some common topics that were irrelevant were regarding world war two and the United States exiting the agreement in 2016, so I filtered out words such as “nazi” and “exit”. I also included a filter for some related words like “climate” and “signed”. After various rounds of filtering, I narrowed it down to 68 results. Here I found a specific piece from the year before the deal was actually signed talking about how the agreement would benefit the state of Iowa which gave a unique perspective. 

The Late 20th Century: Cold War and Globalization (1980s – 2000s): Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, 1986

During the Cold War era, nuclear power was increasingly popular. Nuclear reactors were used worldwide to generate power for countries, and most did so without error. However, the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster was an exception that caused large amounts of nuclear radiation to be released into the atmosphere. 

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was located near the city of Pripyat, Ukraine, in what was the soviet union at the time. There were 4 different reactors within the plant, and the disaster happened in unit 4. 

On the day of the disaster, April 26th, there was a planned power reduction in the plant. When it came to unit 4, the workers at the plant attempted to run a test before shutting it down. A series of mistakes compounded, and when they attempted to emergency shut down the reactor, it instead power surged. The result was a chain reaction of explosions, releasing large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere, which was moved by the wind over long distances. All people living in the immediate area were evacuated for fear of the effects of the radiation that had been released. 

While there are no official death counts, it has been said that anywhere from 2 to 50 people died as a direct result of the explosion. Thousands more died indirectly from radiation poisoning and other exposure symptoms. 

I used the Cedar Rapids Public Library CHA to find pieces for this event. I searched for “Chernobyl” and a few buzzwords like “nuclear” and “explosion”. I also filtered out some irrelevant words like “anniversary” that were pulling up results that were covering the event decades later. When looking through the results, I had to look for dates later than April because the accident was covered up for a while following its occurrence. It wasn’t until later that the Soviet Union released information about what happened, and I was able to watch the world gain knowledge day by day as more information became available.

Post-War Prosperity and Challenges (1945 – 1980s): The First Earth Day, 1970

Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin had a history of focusing on environmental concerns. He saw the anti-war protests that students had been participating in and was inspired to create a similar protest against the environmental harms that had been happening. He recruited activist Dennis Hayes and together they created a day of campus teach-ins which would educate students and organize protests for better environmental policies. 

Soon after they began to develop the day, they named it Earth Day. With this new name, they began to gain media coverage, and 20 million Americans joined in the celebration of Earth Day all over the United States. Furthermore, they received bipartisan support for Earth Day, uniting the much-divided politicians and political party members on the issue of environmental protection. 

This first Earth Day marked the start of a yearly celebration and had a great impact on environmental policy in the United States. Earth Day is credited as leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the passage of environmental protection laws. It also grew beyond the United States, becoming a worldwide movement that is celebrated on April 22nd every year. 

To find pieces about this event, I used the Cedar Rapids Public Library CHA. I searched for the exact phrase of Earth Day and limited the dates to 1970. I did the exact phrase because otherwise, it was pulling up anything with day in it. Here I found these pieces talking about how widespread the day would be and what to expect in different Iowa Communities. 

The World Wars Era (1914 – 1945): First MLB Game Played at Wrigley Field, 1914

Grab your peanuts and cracker jacks, because for this era we are turning our attention to Wrigley Field. On April 23rd, 1914, the first Major League Baseball (MLB) game was played at Wrigley Field, which was named Weeghman Park at that time. The game featured the matchup between the Chicago Federals and the Kansas City Packers. Located on the North Side of Chicago, at the time of opening the park had a capacity of 14,000 people. The Federals won over the Packers with a score of 9-1. 

It was quite challenging to find information on this topic, as there was very little available. It is likely that at the time, nobody was aware of the park’s future significance. After spending a considerable amount of time scrolling through various articles, I managed to find some information. One article from the day of the game detailed where each team was playing that night, while another, published before the game, featured a player discussing how it was expected to be one of the most attended games.

The Industrial Revolution to the Early 20th Century (1824 – 1914): President Roosevelt Tours Yellowstone National Park, 1903

To end this week’s piece, I wanted to talk about one of the biggest advocates for planet Earth: President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a huge advocate for conservation and national parks. On this week in 1903, President Roosevelt was touring Yellowstone National Park. He spent much of his time visiting various national parks and staying for weeks on end. This specific stop just happened to be a pause in the middle of a speaking tour he was taking, where he stayed at Yellowstone for two weeks before continuing the tour. Roosevelt is remembered for his legacy of nature conservation in the United States. 

To find this information, I decided to look through some old editions of the Iowa City Republican, because that is where I live for school. I found this in one of the editions and researched more about it from there

This week is the perfect time to reflect on our actions and how they have impacted the future. Just like nature must be preserved, so does our history, and there is no better way to do that than with Advantage Archives. I encourage everyone to enjoy the weather this Earth Day week, and I hope you will join me again next week to explore more of history’s hidden gems and timeless tales! 


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