Tag Archive for: Earth day

What is Earth Day?

Friday, April 22, 2022, marks this year’s Earth Day, an annual day of action to tackle the ongoing climate crisis, promote sustainability, and demonstrate support for those working to protect the planet. Inaugurated in 1970, the event continues to grow in line with the scale of the ongoing ecological threat, with events taking place in over 190 countries.

Origin of Earth Day

Earth Day started in 1969 as an initiative to raise awareness of the deteriorating health of the environment on US college campuses. In response to concerns surrounding air and water quality in the country, Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson announced to the national media that he would be organizing teach-ins on college campuses, recruiting young activist Denis Hayes to lead the sessions.

Following a series of successful events, Hayes built a team of 85 people to promote public teach-ins across the US. Soon, a wide array of organizations and faith groups became involved. In 1970, the first nationwide Earth Day took place, with millions of Americans taking to the streets to demonstrate against the harmful effects of industrial development.

Following a successful day of action, Congress created the US Environmental Protection Agency and passed several laws designed to mitigate ecological damage, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act.

Earth Day Milestones

Earth Day has grown in size and strength since its successful launch in 1970. In 1990, Earth Day spread throughout the world, mobilizing millions of people and emphasizing the urgency of environmental action. It also lay the foundations for the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

By the time the millennium came around, Earth Day had spread to 184 countries and inspired hundreds of thousands of people to gather in Washington, DC, to express the need for decisive action on global warming.

Earth Day 2022

Today, Earth Day represents a global movement. Thanks to the widespread availability of the internet, billions of people engage with Earth Day every year. This year’s theme is “Invest in our Planet”, a slogan designed to encourage individuals, corporations, and world leaders to put money towards greener technologies and environmental projects that promote bio-diversity across the globe.

What’s New on Earth Day?

Businesses and individuals are making pledges to “Invest in our Planet” by switching to greener ways of working and reducing their carbon footprints. The Earth Day 2022 website includes an action toolkit to help people get involved with the event and make a difference in their local communities, as well as tips for investing in the planet.

As the movement’s website states, “For us, every day is Earth Day”, so actions and events will continue throughout the year to ensure environmental action does not lose its vital momentum.

History of Earth Day

History of Earth Day

Image attribute: Photograph by Google Images; distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license

Earth Day was the brain child of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was horrified after witnessing a terrible 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara, California. Sen. Nelson hoped to tap into the restless energy which was still being expressed by the counter-culture movements of the time, to publicize and promote national awareness of the environment. Up to that time, relatively little mention of the environment had ever been featured in the media, with only a few voices calling attention to the diminishing resources, increasing pollution, and indiscriminate recklessness toward the earth.

Organizing the first Earth Day
Sen. Nelson persuaded Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to be co-chairman and appointed Denis Hayes from Harvard as his national coordinator. Mr. Hayes quickly assembled a national staff of 85 like-minded individuals to help with the event, and April 22, 1970 was chosen as the date for the inaugural Earth Day in America.

An amazing 20 million Americans turned out that day to demonstrate in favor of greater environmental awareness and protections, enlisting the aid of millions who had already been fighting pollution and other discrete areas of environmental harm. The groundswell of support for the movement led directly to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of a bill promoting clean air, clean water, and protection of endangered animal species.

Earth Day goes global
Twenty years later, in 1990, Denis Hayes again took the spotlight for organizing a global Earth Day. For that effort, more than 200 million people in almost 150 countries participated, and it brought the issue of environmental conservation into focus for the entire world. One of the biggest outcomes of this global involvement was a formal program of recycling which began to be adopted almost everywhere on earth. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Sen. Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts in founding Earth Day.

Earth Day today
In 2010, the Earth Day Network brought more than 250,000 people to the National Mall for a rally focused on the climate, and initiated the launching of the world’s largest environmental service undertaking, called ‘A Billion Acts of Green’. This called for forest preservation and conservation in the form of planting trees in 192 countries, by more than 22,000 partners of the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day has grown into the biggest observance in the world by private citizens, with upwards of one billion people participating annually. It continues to gain supporters every year. In addition, the movement continues to spur new legislation that acts to protect the environment and the creatures which make use of it. With major impacts already being wrought by climate change, and even greater impacts anticipated, the value provided by Earth Day becomes more evident and more crucial with each successive year.


Meet Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

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