Nearly 40 years ago, the United States celebrated its first Earth Day! For that, we can thank former a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson. Read on to learn more about the history of Earth Day!
After witnessing the 1969 oil spill in California, coupled with the growing anti-war movements across the nation, Nelson felt a pull to help the environment. Nelson assembled a team of two equally inspired and motivated people, Dennis Hayes and Pete McCloskey, to help bring his idea, of dedicating a day towards advocating for the environment, to fruition. After leveraging the power of their networks, the team of three quickly grew to a national staff of eighty-five.
Fun fact: It is said that Earth Day's actual day was chosen because one of the founding members was still at university and the day fell between Spring break and final exams.
This newly created staff was tasked with planning and executing conservation events and demonstrations across the nation. The majority of their supporters and participants were college students, primary and secondary school children, and major cities around the nation.
On April 22nd, 1970, the first ever Earth Day, over 20 million Americans protested for a healthier, more sustainable environment. Environmental activists and groups came together from all sorts of diverse political, economic, and geographic backgrounds, making Earth Day one of the most extraordinary movements of its time.
By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Twenty years later, Earth Day went global. Denis Hayes, one of the founding members and a Stamford Graduate, founded the Earth Day Network, which was, and still is, responsible for coordinating Earth Day demonstrations and events in more than 180 countries around the globe.
Earth Day has become the largest secular civic event in the world.
Now, nearing it’s 50th Anniversary in 2020, Earth Day is celebrated around the globe, inspiring action, creating awareness, and giving individuals the platform to help make positive change.
Here’s some inspiration on how to plan an engaging Earth Day event this year!