What is Earth Day?

August 2, 2016

Earth Day is an event held every year on April 22 in appreciation of the environment. It’s purpose is to educate society on environmental issues that are affecting the Earth such as pollution, climate change and the protection of the Earth’s natural resources. Originally a grassroots movement in the United States, Earth Day has grown into a worldwide movement with 175 countries joining the call for better care of the planet.

During the 1950s and 1960s, there was little regulation to how refuse was dealt with and industrial pollution. Most of American society was unaware of the impact their actions were having on the environment. The ignorance of pollution’s consequences came to an end in 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, whose research showed a link between the public health and the environmental damage caused by pollution.

The idea of a national day dedicated to environmental awareness was formulated by a U. S. Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson. Inspired by the anti-war movement and witnessing himself the environmental damages caused by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Nelson wanted to combine the passion of anti-war protests with the growing awareness about pollution to bring the need for environmental protection to the political forefront. With the aid of Congressman Pete McCloskey and Harvard graduate Denis Hayes, Nelson was able to spread the word for a national day of environmental awareness on April 22, 1970.

The success of Earth Day on April 22, 1970 led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, laws aimed at environmental protection. In 1990, Earth Day became global with 200 million people and 141 countries participating. Today, Earth Day continues to call for environmental protection with and for policies to combat these issues.

Other Sources

Bradford, Alina. “Earth Day: Facts & History.” Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/50556-earth-day-facts-history.html. Accessed August 3, 2016.

Earth Day Network. “History of Earth Day.” Earth Day Network. http://www.earthday.org/about/the-history-of-earth-day/. Accessed August 3, 2016.