A Nod to the Summer of Love

Posted on August 10, 2017 by Robert Falk

Fueled by a preceding series of so-called (and then legal) “acid tests,” what came to be known as the “Summer of Love” arose spontaneously in San Francisco fifty years ago.  In 1967, motivated in part by Scott McKenzie’s original rendition of the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” young people from around the country descended on the Haight Asbury neighborhood and Golden Gate Park to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.”  The counter-culture, which included an embrace of respect for the natural environment by some of the flower children, was officially born and began to spread more broadly throughout the country. 

Few would go as far to claim that the majority of hippies who took up residence in San Francisco that summer were environmentalists.  Their quickly growing population and associated care-free and litter-filled lifestyles soon overwhelmed local public service capacities such that the entire “scene” became unsustainable within a matter of months.  The adverse impacts on “the Haight” became so overwhelming that long-time local residents, even including the Grateful Dead band members who then-lived at 710 Asbury Street, decided to move out and relocate to the literally greener pastures that lie to the north of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

But given its sandwiching between Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the first Earth Day in 1970, the argument can be made that the Summer of Love and Flower Power were very much key catalysts in propelling the counter-culture to reach beyond the demands for civil rights and opposing the Viet Nam war so as to give political voice to the need for more modern and meaningful environmental protections in the United States. 

Indeed, the siren song’s lyrics, which were written by John Philipps of the Mamas and the Papas, may have been prescient in this respect:

If you're going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

If you're going to San Francisco

You're gonna meet some gentle people there

 

For those who come to San Francisco

Summertime will be a love-in there

In the streets of San Francisco

Gentle people with flowers in their hair

 

All across the nation

Such a strange vibration

People in motion

There's a whole generation

With a new explanation

People in motion

People in motion

 

For those who come to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

If you come to San Francisco

Summertime will be a love-in there.

Whether these lyrics were actually prescient or not need not be further debated.  On the other hand, one probably needs to look no further than to U.S. EPA’s own official logo to see that the Summer of Love and Flower Power had real and indelible influence on the modern environmental movement.



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