The History of Earth Day - Earth Day (2023)

The First Earth Day

Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of thebirth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Let’s take a look at the last half-century of mobilization for action:

ORIGINS OF EARTH DAY

In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, Americans wereconsuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficientautomobiles. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of theconsequences from either the law or bad press. Air pollution was commonlyaccepted as the smell of prosperity. Until this point, mainstream Americaremained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a pollutedenvironment threatens human health.

However, the stage was set for change with the publication ofRachel Carson’s New York Times bestsellerSilent Springin1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copiesin 24 countries as it raised public awareness and concern for living organisms,the environment and the inextricable links between pollution and public health.

(Video) HISTORY OF | Earth Day

Earth Day 1970 would come to provide a voice to this emerging environmental consciousness, and putting environmental concerns on the front page.


THE IDEA FOR THE FIRST EARTH DAY

Senator Gaylord Nelson, the junior senator from Wisconsin, had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States. Then in January 1969, he and many others witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Nelson wanted to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media, and persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair. They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins and they choose April 22, a weekday falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, to maximize the greatest student participation.

Recognizing its potential to inspire all Americans, Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land and the effort soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations, faith groups, and others. They changed the name to Earth Day, which immediately sparked national media attention, and caught on across the country. Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment and there were massive coast-to-coast rallies in cities, towns, and communities.

Groups that had been fighting individually against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife united on Earth Day around these shared common values. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of other first of their kind environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean AirAct. Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act. A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act and soon after the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.These laws have protected millions of men, women and children from disease and death and have protected hundreds of species from extinction.

(Video) Earth Day 1970–2022: What's Changed?

1990: EARTH DAY GOES GLOBAL

As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders approached Denis Hayes to once again organize another major campaign for the planet. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.

EARTH DAY FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead anothercampaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. With5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundredsof millions of people, Earth Day 2000 built both global and localconversations, leveraging the power of the Internet to organize activistsaround the world, while also featuring a drum chain that traveled from villageto village in Gabon, Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people also gathered onthe National Mall in Washington, DC for a First Amendment Rally.

30 years on, Earth Day 2000 sentworld leaders a loud and clear message: Citizens around the world wanted quickand decisive action on global warming and clean energy.

EARTH DAY 2010

As in 1970, Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community to combat the cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community with the collective power of global environmental activism.In the face of these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and EARTHDAY.ORG reestablished Earth Day as a major moment for global action for the environment.

Over the decades, EARTHDAY.ORG has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism in 193 countries. Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year and has become a major stepping stone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet.

EARTH DAY TODAY

Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secularobservance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a dayof action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policychanges.

(Video) Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains the History of Earth Day

Now,the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as theravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day.

Asthe awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization,which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Disillusioned by thelow level of ambition following the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 andfrustrated with international environmental lethargy, citizens of the world arerising up to demand far greater action for our planet and its people.

The social and cultural environments we saw in 1970 are rising up again today — a fresh and frustrated generation of young people are refusing to settle for platitudes, instead taking to the streets by the millions to demand a new way forward. Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and catalyzing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced.

(Video) Earth Day 1970 - 2019: No Time To Waste

By tapping into some of the learnings, outcomes, and legacy of the first Earth Day, EARTHDAY.ORG is building a cohesive, coordinated, diverse movement, one that goes to the very heart of what EARTHDAY.ORG and Earth Day are all about — empowering individuals with the information, the tools, the messaging and the communities needed to make an impact and drive change.

We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and help write many more chapters—struggles and victories—into the Earth Day book.

FAQs

What is the history behind Earth Day? ›

The First Earth Day in April 1970

Because there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment. In spring 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda.

What is the history of Earth Day for Kids? ›

The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, when a United States senator from Wisconsin organized a national demonstration to raise awareness about environmental issues. Rallies took place across the country and, by the end of the year, the U.S. government had created the Environmental Protection Agency.

How do you explain Earth Day to students? ›

Earth Day is an annual event that raises public awareness of the importance of protecting the environment. It is celebrated each year on April 22 in the United States and across much of the world. In some countries, it is celebrated on the day of the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, usually on March 21.

Why was Earth Day so successful? ›

The first Earth Day indeed increased environmental awareness in America, and in July of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established by special executive order to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation. Earth Day also led to the passage of the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Who is the first person to be on earth? ›

Adam is the name given in Genesis 1-5 to the first human.

What is Earth Day Short answer? ›

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org (formerly Earth Day Network) including 1 billion people in more than 193 countries.

What are 5 things you can do for Earth Day? ›

Here are a few things you can do to do your part for saving the planet on Earth Day.
  • Go on a beach clean. ...
  • Plant a tree. ...
  • Buy a bag for life. ...
  • Don't eat any meat. ...
  • Go microbead-free. ...
  • Walk or ride a bike. ...
  • Give up chewing gum. ...
  • Shop at a local farmers market.
18 Apr 2018

What are 10 things you can do on Earth Day? ›

10 Earth Day Activities and Ideas
  • Support Our Pollinators! ...
  • Clean Up Plastic in Your Neighborhood or Local Park. ...
  • Swap Out Your Kitchen and Household Products! ...
  • Plant a Tree! ...
  • Use Wildflowers and Native Plants. ...
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in the Garden. ...
  • Stop Pesticides and Chemicals in the Garden. ...
  • Conserve Water!

What are 3 things you can do to celebrate Earth Day? ›

Walk or bike to school — not only is it good for the body, it's good for the environment too! Make a bird feeder or house. Use a milk carton, a large water or soda bottle, or a pine cone. Create recycling bins.

What is Earth Day and why is it important essay? ›

Earth Day is celebrated to honour our earth and its resources and create awareness of the need to protect them. Due to many issues like pollution, global warming and deforestation, our earth is suffering.

Why is Earth Day so important now? ›

Earth Day was founded on that type of momentum and grassroots efforts and now thrives upon. After its inaugural celebration in 1970, Earth Day helped put the environment on our national agenda, leading to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and major policies, like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

Why is Earth Day important to us? ›

It draws attention to the environment and promotes conservation and sustainability. Each year on 22 April, around 1 billion individuals across more than 190 countries take action to raise awareness of the climate crisis and bring about behavioural change to protect the environment.

Why is Earth Day important facts? ›

Earth Day is recognized every year to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire an appreciation for the environment. Environmental activists coined Earth Day in response to a massive oil spill in waters near Santa Barbara, CA, in 1969.

What are 4 ways people celebrate Earth Day? ›

1 Walk or ride your bike. 2 Go on a nature walk. 3 Plant a tree. 4 Pick up litter in your community.
...
Get out there and appreciate our beautiful world.
  • Hike the nature trails at your local park.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Visit a nearby botanical garden.
  • Plan a beach day with your friends or family.

What Earth Day means to us? ›

Every year on April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day. The day marks the start of the environmental movement in 1970, and for the past 52 years has resulted in policy change and a greater awareness of the environment.

How did first human born? ›

The first human ancestors appeared between five million and seven million years ago, probably when some apelike creatures in Africa began to walk habitually on two legs. They were flaking crude stone tools by 2.5 million years ago. Then some of them spread from Africa into Asia and Europe after two million years ago.

How long did Adam and Eve live? ›

Adam's age at death is given as 930 years.

What is Earth simple words? ›

Earth, our home planet, is a world unlike any other. The third planet from the sun, Earth is the only place in the known universe confirmed to host life. With a radius of 3,959 miles, Earth is the fifth largest planet in our solar system, and it's the only one known for sure to have liquid water on its surface.

What are 3 environmental issues? ›

The list of issues surrounding our environment go on, but there are three major ones that affect the majority of them overall: global warming and climate change; water pollution and ocean acidification; and loss of biodiversity.

How old is the Earth? ›

Earth is estimated to be 4.54 billion years old, plus or minus about 50 million years. Scientists have scoured the Earth searching for the oldest rocks to radiometrically date. In northwestern Canada, they discovered rocks about 4.03 billion years old.

Why is it important to protect the environment? ›

Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. They provide raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes. They are at the foundation of all civilisation and sustain our economies.

How do we celebrate Earth Day everyday? ›

From turning off lights and electronics when not in use, to using a programmable thermostat, to changing your air filter regularly, there are many small things you can do to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while saving money on your utility bills. Reduce paper waste and junk mail.

What do you eat on Earth Day? ›

32 Green Foods for Earth Day
  • Green and White Pizza. Sam Sifton, Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, Katherine Wheelock. ...
  • Green Goddess Roasted Chicken. Melissa Clark. ...
  • Easy. Zucchini With Shallots. ...
  • Broccoli Rabe, Shakshuka Style. Florence Fabricant. ...
  • Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad. Julia Moskin. ...
  • Easy. ...
  • Easy. ...
  • Easy.

What can we teach children about Earth Day? ›

Earth Day, there's only one
  • Read books. ...
  • Spend time in the outdoors. ...
  • Teach them about water and electricity conservation. ...
  • Create a story about the earth. ...
  • Participate in a local event. ...
  • Create recycled art. ...
  • Plant a tree, garden or anything else that can grow in your yard. ...
  • Create a compost bin for summer gardens and plants.
7 Apr 2016

How do we go green on Earth Day? ›

15 EARTH DAY TIPS
  1. Reduce plastic waste in your kitchen. Swap plastic sponges for eco-friendly sponges made from Loofah, a natural fruit that comes from the cucumber family. ...
  2. Be mindful of your cleaning products. ...
  3. Get a home energy score. ...
  4. Circulate the air inside your home.
27 Oct 2022

How do you honor nature? ›

10 simple, tangible ways to honor Mother Nature
  1. Combat food waste. In the United States, up to 40% of food goes uneaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. ...
  2. Walk when you can. ...
  3. Compost. ...
  4. Choose local and organic. ...
  5. Combine your trips. ...
  6. Make small changes. ...
  7. Dress in layers. ...
  8. Buy what you need — and really love.

Why should we protect the Earth essay? ›

Earth and the resources of earth make life possible on it. If we were to imagine our lives without these resources, that would not be possible. As life cannot function without sunshine, air, vegetation, and water. However, this is soon going to be our reality if we do not save the earth now.

What is earth short essay? ›

The earth is the planet that we live on and it is the fifth-largest planet. It is positioned in third place from the Sun. This essay on earth will help you learn all about it in detail. Our earth is the only planet that can sustain humans and other living species.

How can we conserve natural resources essay? ›

Ways to Conserve Natural Resources

By reducing, reusing and recycling of non-renewable resources. Non-human species must be disturbed only to meet the basic needs. Planting of more and more trees to save our forest resources. Seeking alternatives to non-renewable resources.

How has Earth Day changed the world? ›

The launch of Earth Day back in 1970 marked a turning point for environmentalism and planet activists worldwide. More than 50 years later, what has changed? The global population has more than doubled since 1970, increasing from 3.7 to 7.8 billion. Humans are using more land.

What is a good slogan for Earth Day? ›

Catchy Slogans on Earth Day

Go Green and Save Green. Reuse your today so that you don't have to reduce tomorrow. Save the Earth and Save the Future. Sowing a seed in a day keeps the pollution away.

Why do we celebrate Earth Day and why? ›

Earth Day is an annual celebration that honors the achievements of the environmental movement and raises awareness of the need to protect Earths natural resources for future generations. The first Earth Day was held April 22, 1970.

What is Earth Day and why is it important? ›

Earth Day is one of the biggest environmental protest movements on the planet. It began in 1970 and takes place every year on 22 April. Around 1 billion people from more than 190 countries join demonstrations, projects and initiatives in efforts to help protect the planet.

Why do we celebrate April 22 as World Earth Day? ›

Every year on April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day. The day marks the start of the environmental movement in 1970, and for the past 52 years has resulted in policy change and a greater awareness of the environment.

Why did they make Earth Day on April 22? ›

The April 22 date was selected in part to maximize the number of students that could be reached on university campuses as this date it fell between colleges' spring break and final exams.

Why is it important to save the Earth? ›

Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet - and its people. Restoring our damaged ecosystems will help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent mass extinction. But we will only succeed if everyone plays a part.

What was Earth Day originally called? ›

This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970.

Did you know facts about Earth Day? ›

Earth Day originated in the US but became recognized worldwide by 1990. In 2009, the UN designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day. It's estimated that over a billion people participate in Earth Day every year, making it the largest secular observance in the world.

How many people celebrate the first Earth Day? ›

How the first Earth Day ushered in a golden age of activism. Some 20 million people took part in the first Earth Day protests held across the United States on April 22, 1970.

Who created the Earth? ›

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Does Earth Day change every year? ›

Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

What happens on April 22 every year? ›

This Day in History: April 22

First celebrated on this day in 1970 in the U.S., Earth Day—founded by American politician and conservationist Gaylord Anton Nelson—helped spark the environmental movement and quickly grew into an international event.

What is April known for? ›

April is known for warmer weather, April showers, and the budding of spring flowers in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, it's autumnal, feeling much like October does in the northern part of the globe.

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4. Earth Day 1970 – 2017: What’s Changed?
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5. Earth Day: The history and its importance in 2022 | CBC Kids News
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6. Earth Day for Kids
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