Earth Day — a day where we take the time to appreciate the planet in which we live on. Who knows where we would be or what kind of life we would have if we weren’t living on Earth. I mean, why not appreciate the planet that provides us with oxygen, soil to grow our fruits and vegetables, all while providing a foundation to build our homes on?
To answer your question, no, this is not an article meant to force climate change on you or promote going green. This is merely just an appreciation article discussing how Earth Day became a thing. With that being said, did you know that Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental discussion in 1970? Did you know that April 22 was the selected date because it fell between Spring Break and Final Exams?
The idea originated from former U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson, after he witnessed the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. After being inspired by students who were a part of the anti-war movement, he realized that if he infused energy with the emerging public awareness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection to be added to the national political agenda.
Back then, the word “environment” wasn’t even heard on the news as much as it’s heard now.
During the 1970s, the Vietnam War was in action and many students nationwide struggled to support it. The smell from air pollution meant prosperity and was accepted among society. America was taking in lead gas through massive V8 sedans, and industries were coughing out smoke and sludge with little concern for the legal consequences (imagine what the press had to say about that).
Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media, persuading conservation-minded Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey to serve as his co-chair. They managed to recruit Denis Hayes from Harvard as the national coordinator, building a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land.
According to Earthday.org, on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans (including thousands of colleges and universities) took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to protest for a healthier, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Earth Day in 1970 managed to achieve a rare political alignment, gaining support from both Republicans and Democrats, city slickers, farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were created.
In 1990, Earth Day went global after a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries and led to more recognition towards environmental issues on the world stage. Earth Day in 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. This even prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1995), which is the highest honor given to civilians in the United States.
Earth Day in our current world is still carrying on its mission to create the world’s largest environmental movement. But now, people are using the internet to promote the importance of clean energy and bring global warming to the light.