What is Earth Day?
While you have probably heard the words "Earth Day", did you know there are two observations of Earth Day? The United Nations celebrates on the equinox; hundreds of countries celebrate Earth Day annually on April 22nd. Both events were birthed in 1969, with grassroots efforts, a focus on environmental awareness, and celebration of Earth.
Events to Leading to Earth Day
Prior to 1970, conservatism was an idea held by a minority of people. The notion that natural resources would become devastated to the point of extinction did not enter our collective thought. Pollution, from our buildings, cars, and behavior, was a normal industry by-product. The idea of being the world's steward was lumped in a mindset of 'a hippie thing' and not understood by mainstream America. Two previous events tilted our environmental awareness: a book and a picture.
In 1962, marine biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. The book talked about the commonly used, toxic pesticides used in agriculture and daily life. The title referred to the consequences of the devastating pesticides: a world without birds. Surprisingly, Silent Spring became a hit. Americans cared, and they wanted the facts.
In 1968, the world saw the entire Earth for the first time. Apollo astronauts photographed the planet on their flight home from the moon. The Earth looked beautiful with its swirls of blues and whites. The photo provided a startling awareness: people saw Earth as vulnerable and needing human care.
Earth Day is Born
In 1969, John McConnell promoted Earth Day as a global celebration of Earth's gifts. The equinox seemed fitting time, as it was the mid-point of spring and autumn across the hemispheres. A peace activist, McConnell first presented his Earth Day idea to an audience at the UNESCO Conference on the Environment. He wanted Earth Day to be a global holiday, where the world celebrates Earth's wonders and gifts.
On March 21, 1970, cities across the globe celebrated Earth Day. McConnell created an Earth Day proclamation that called upon people to take action against crises of the world, such as famine, war, and poverty. The proclamation also stated that participants would celebrate an international Earth Day to create a single community and embrace Earth's gifts. The proclamation was endorsed by well-known people and leaders around the world: astronaut Buzz Aldrin, anthropologist Margaret Mead, inventor-scientist Buckminister Fuller, Japanese environmental scientist, Y. Fukushima, American senators, U.N. President S.O. Adebo, and UN Secretary-General Thant.
In April of 1970, the world celebrated another Earth Day event. The April 22nd event also began as a way to spread awareness of environmental issues. American Senator and conservationist, Gaylord Nelson, had actively toured the U.S. in the mid 1960's with an environmental awareness agenda. Wanting the U.S. government to take an active role in environmental concerns, Nelson presented the idea for a national conservationist tour to President Kennedy, who supported the idea. While President Kennedy's tour did not turn environmental issues into mainstream conversations, it was a beginning in changing America's role in environmental issues. Nelson was inspired by college campuses' widespread Vietnam protests, or teach-ins. He thought a nationwide conservationist teach-in would get more Americans involved in environmental issues.
Nelson presented his Earth Day idea to other government officials and news organizations. He promoted Earth Day to senators, governors, mayors, and college campuses' newspaper editors. In November 1969, he formally announced a nationwide, environmental teach-in, called Earth Day, would be held in the spring of 1970. As the event became headline news, the public reacted enthusiastically. Nelson first handled Earth Day public relations from his senate office, but with the public's overwhelming interest, the office moved into its own organization. Founder of Common Cause John Gardner helped with a temporary office, and college students helped field the office. Nelson appointed Dennis Hayes as coordinator of activities.
Approximately 20 million people celebrated the first Earth Day. In America, participation was high in schools, which ten thousand grade schools and high schools, two thousand colleges participating. Amazing numbers, considering the event started as a grassroots movement.
The strength of the Earth Day movement was clear to legislatures. Following Earth Day's success, the U.S. government passed laws that targeted cleaner living. In 1970, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established. The Clean Air Act followed with a focus on reducing air pollution, with the Clean Water Act doing likewise for water clean-up in 1972. The U.S. also passed the Endangered Species Act to protect animals from extinction.
Mainstream Americans talked about recycling and conservation. In the 1980's, many people recycled within their neighborhood recycling programs. People's awareness of their ecological responsibility became part of their lives and actions. Children learned the importance of taking care of their environment; they were taught to care for the earth and its animals. The iconic Smokey Bear (originated in the mid 1940's) featured poster slogans, like "If not you, who?" and "Only you can prevent forest fires. We can't." Americans seemed to step-up to their roles as Earth trustees.
In the 1990's, recycling programs reduced overall waste by twenty percent. With people and government taking responsibility, companies followed suit. Manufacturers looked at ways to reduce toxic by-products and appear environmentally responsible to their customers. Their marketing campaigns highlighted eco-friendly actions, like reducing environmental waste.
Even with progressive responsibility, people did not celebrate Earth Day as they had in the beginning year. Celebrations were still held, but they weren't as widely attended or announced. In 1990, the original Earth Day coordinator, Dennis Hayes, organized a worldwide Earth Day. For the thirtieth anniversary of Earth Day, Hayes planned for a global celebration, with participation from countries around the world. The event was observed by 200,000 people across the globe. The movement continued with recognition that environmental issues impacted the world and spurred the international community to work as a unit and combat its shared problems. In 1992, leaders at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) recognized their joint responsibility and planned for future projects on sustainable living.
Earth Day Birthday
In 2009, visionary Simon Ford led a grassroots effort on the internet. This global community focused on a renewed urgency about environmental issues. Their first major campaign focused on worldwide environmental crises, the responsibility of mankind to solve them, and a project to unite participants across the world. The event, Earth Day Birthday, formed, as a global event to celebrate Mother Nature's gifts.
Successful Earth Day events in the past came from grassroots efforts in spreading environmental awareness. Earth Day Birthday joins online social networks with real world actions. Earth Day event organizers and participants find each other on the web. Supporters are spreading the word on environmental issues and taking action in their own communities. Earth Day Birthday provides the 20th century, grassroots effort in reaching eco-friendly people and making an impact on the planet.
For more information about Earth Day Birthday, this site provides Earth Day Birthday campaign details: