Today is Earth Day...ever wonder why? Where did Earth Day come from? Our planet is clearly important to us but why do we celebrate it? Read on to discover the history behind this holiday.
Earth Day began in 1970 due to a rise in public awareness about the state our planet was in. During the decades leading up to the creation of Earth Day, Americans were using copious amounts of fuel and factories were spewing out smoke and sludge. The air and water were highly polluted but this was considered an acceptable result of the prosperity America was experiencing.
Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin had been concerned about the environment for many years. Then, in January 1969, there was a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA. Nelson used this event to spur energy into helping the environment. "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." (earthday.org/history) Nelson got together with professors to hold "teach-ins" on college campuses to educate students about the health of the environment. They chose April 22 because it fell between spring break and final exams and they thought it would magnify participation.
After a few teach-ins, Nelson's group realized that all Americans could benefit from their movement. They formed a staff of 85 people who worked their way across America, promoting events tied to environmentalism. The name of the day was changed to Earth Day, which immediately caught on. 10% of the population (20 million people) took to the streets in rallies and protests to demonstrate against the negative effects of industrialism.
The first Earth Day in 1970 was a political feat, garnering the support of rich and poor, urban and rural, businesses and labor leaders, Republicans and Democrats. "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 Air Act." (earthday.org/history) Many other organizations were also created to protect the water, animals, and land from pollutants. Earth Day finally went global in 1990.
What activities do you participate in for Earth Day? Do you plant something? Monetarily support environmental groups? Teach your kids about recycling? This year we are doing all of these, but also learning about composting (the hubby's against it because of smell, but I've got a plan!). We'd love to hear what you are doing to keep our planet healthy!