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Earth Day

Earth Day: how it began and what it means now


44 years ago, on April 22, 1970 more than 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day. The previous years had been no strangers to protests- the Vietnam War had pushed people to the streets and created a culture of social movements. When people started noticing the choking pollution that was plaguing cities, rivers and oceans, they once again wanted to make their voices heard. Thanks to leaders in environmentalism such as Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring and Senator Gaylord Nelson, a grassroots campaign of mostly student volunteers, led by young activist Dennis Hayes, took up the cause.

On the first Earth Day, demonstrations took place in cities across America, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Actors Paul Newman and Ali McGraw spoke at demonstrations in New York City. In Washington D.C., Congress went on recess to speak with the people at Earth Day events. By the end of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency had been created and addressing environmental issues was on the top of the political agenda.

By Pramod Kumra T.K. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fast-forward 44 years, and there are still environmental battles to be fought, namely climate change and habitat destruction. The good news is that people still care, and Earth Day has become a global event, with more than 17,000 partnering organizations in 174 countries participating. According to the Earth Day Network, more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day, making it the “largest secular civic event in the world.” [1]

So how are Earth Day-enthusiasts celebrating these days? They’re planting trees, participating in community clean-up events, and writing letters to their congressmen pushing for environmental reform. You may see more people walking or riding their bike to work, creating a compost pile in their yards or even picking up pieces of litter off the sidewalk. All of these are ways to advance the health of the planet and show support for Earth Day.

By NASA/ GSFC/ NOAA/ USGS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



[1] "Earth Day." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.

Other Sources:

Roach, John. "Earth Day Facts: When It Is, How It Began, What to Do."National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 06 Apr. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

"Earth Day, April 22." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2014