Pete Seeger has died at the age of 94. Although Seeger is best remembered for his musical contributions and social activism, few are aware of the massive role he played as an environmental activist. In fact, environmental activism was where he spent the majority of his efforts for the last 30 years of his life.
As the political and social climates of the post-war and civil rights eras changed for the better, Seeger realized that the environment was the biggest issue that would dwarf all concerns, and he threw his energies into environmental activism with a passion. In response to the condition of the Hudson River, which by the 1960s was becoming increasingly polluted, Seeger founded the Hudson Valley Sloop Restoration and the Clearwater organization; both culminated in the construction of the sloop Clearwater, which serves as a vehicle of environmental awareness today. The accomplishments of the Clearwater organization are still being used as examples of how to implement effective environmental policy and change through education, both in the United States and around the world.
Seeger did not save his efforts for his own projects, however. Over the years he lent his fame to support numerous environmental organizations, including South Jersey’s Bayshore Center, the home of New Jersey’s tall ship, the oyster schooner A.J. Meerwald. Seeger’s benefit concerts helped raise funds for groups so they could continue to educate and spread environmental awareness.
Seeger was an adamant outdoorsman, and often chose camping over the cushy hotel; after the Bayshore Center’s fundraising concert, he camped out with group supporters and shared stories, food, and of course, music. The “everyman” was Seeger’s favorite person, and he always had time for the individual. His energy level, his gentle nature, and his strong convictions were a strong force for social and environmental change. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.
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