OK, so the title is a bit of hyperbole. But every social movement has its inspirational leaders, and Pete played a huge role in galvanizing the environmental movement. His great gift was the power of song — not [just] as performance but as political participation. He brought people together for a cleaner Hudson River and so brought people together for a cleaner world.
Here in the Hudson Valley we like to take credit for the birth of environmental law with cases like the Storm King pumped storage case (Scenic Hudson v Federal Power Commission) where activists successfully asserted environmental rights before there were practically any environmental laws on the books. Pete’s Hudson River Sloop Clearwater was part of that suit — but much more importantly, Pete Seeger was instrumental in organizing and inspiring people to push for environmental change. He and his Hudson River sloop became a visual and audible symbol for activist environmentalism. It is hard to imagine the “environmental decade” without Pete Seeger.
In 1972, Pete Seeger helped push Congress over the edge to pass the Clean Water Act by sailing the Clearwater to Washington, D.C. and delivering a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of the Clean Water Act.
And nothing beats his testimony before the House Un American Activities Committee, where he refused to confirm whether he had ever been a communist or a vegetarian, but offered to sing for them.