Chances are, if you are reading this blog, April 22nd is an important date for you; one that is synonymous with environmental care and awareness. It is, of course, Earth Day.
This important holiday has been observed for over 40 years, although many of us do not know how it began. Read on for a brief history of our planets’ yearly day of appreciation and awareness.
Earth Day, as we know it, was founded in 1970 and initially began as a project put forth by Senator Gaylord Nelson, prompted by the antiwar protests of the late 1960s. During that time, Americans were becoming more aware of the effects of pollution on their environment. One of the bestselling books of the 1960s, “Silent Spring”, covered the dangerous effects of pesticides on America’s land and subsequently citizens.
Senator Nelson and supporters envisioned Earth Day as a “national teach-in on the environment”.Nelson, who was elected to the US Senate in 1962 (D. Wisconsin), was inspired by the anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” that were commonplace on college campuses at the time. According to Nelson, he wanted “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue (of environmental awareness) onto the national agenda.”
On April 22nd, 1970, the first Earth Day proceedings took place in the form of rallies held in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and many other cities across the country. These events succeeded in raising public awareness of the growing pollution problem throughout America. Nelson had focused the events on college students and hoped the publicized, (if somewhat grassroots) events would bring environmental causes into the national spotlight, which they did.
“More than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.”
Since then, Earth Day celebrations have grown exponentially. In 1990, Earth Day finally went global as “200 million people in over 140 nations participated in events” according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities.
Thanks to its founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson, first ever “Earth Day” which was observed 45 years ago, was a huge success that spawned numerous others like it and solidified April 22nd as the nationally recognized holiday we celebrate today.
As of 2014, according to the EDN, “More than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.”