Isn’t every day Earth Day? It’s where we live. Its soil, weather, and atmosphere help provide us sustenance. Its beauty inspires art and poetry. We’re all about the earth…so how did a special day to celebrate our symbiotic relationship with the planet Earth finally come to be?
The “creation” of Earth Day was motivated by the emerging social consciousness embodied in widespread anti-Vietnam War protests and partially inspired by the international popularity of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking ecological exposé The Silent Spring, published in 1962. During an era seemingly oblivious to the effects of leaded gasoline and unregulated manufacturing on air quality, a true bi-partisan effort to protect Mother Earth emerged.
In 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson – shocked by the devastation wrought by a massive oil spill the previous year in Santa Barbara – convinced conservation-minded California Congressman Pete McCloskey to join him in sponsoring a “national teach-in on the environment.” Denis Hayes, now president of the Bullit Foundation (dedicated to preserving the natural environment of the Pacific Northwest), became national coordinator. Hayes marshalled a staff of 85 to promote the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.
Over 20 million people nationwide participated in Earth Day activities. Friends of the Earth came from all walks of life, from both political parties, from blue collars to blue bloods. And that was just the beginning.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts all trace their origin to the
success of that first Earth Day.
By 1990, more than 200 million people in 141 countries “celebrated” Earth Day, leading to Senator Nelson receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in protecting the environment.
Despite occasional setbacks prompted by lobbyists, a sometimes apathetic public, and cautious politicians, what is now the Earth Day Network has grown April 22 into the largest secular observance in the world, involving 22,000 partners, 192 countries, and more than a billion people in activities that reach far beyond a single day
With history in mind, the Earth Day Network has set amazing and achievable goals to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this monumental
day. Learn more about how you can be part of the 2020 celebration
After all, the Earth belongs to all of us. And we belong to it!