The History of Earth Day

Every year, on April 22nd, Earth Day commences and reminds us to remember the pioneers who began the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Did you know … in 1970, the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina wasn’t acknowledged for 18 years?

That incident sparked the very first Earth Day, and ignited a campaign around the globe to make the world more conscious and aware of what was going on with the environment.

The first nationwide protest was proposed by Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson, who at the time was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. His idea behind the demonstration was to wake up Washington and make environmental awareness a national topic on the political agenda.

Before the awareness of toxins and pollutants came to the forefront in 1970, Americans were driving gas guzzling SUVs, while industries were ‘spilling’ impurities into the air with no idea of what repercussions would follow. The word ‘environment’ wasn’t really a part of Americans’ vocabulary, until Earth Day, 1970.

On April 22nd, 1970, Americans took a stand and made their voices heard. They gathered in the streets, parks, auditoriums; all to demonstrate peacefully, the importance for a healthy, viable environment.

Rallies were organized by National Coordinator Denis Hayes. His young, aspiring staff went from coast-to-coast, making a voice for Mother Nature.

Colleges and universities became the sites of massive organized protests to stop the decline of the environment. Groups that were already fighting polluting factories, oil spills, and wildlife extinction, soon realized they all shared a common goal.

A political awakening soon surfaced and support from Republicans and Democrats alike rallied the rich and poor, city dwellers and rural inhabitants, even CEOs and industrial laborers.

From that first Earth Day in 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was birthed into action, as well as the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.
For his role as Earth Day Founder, Sen. Nelson was awarded the highest honor given to civilians in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1990, the environmental movement went global, as environmental leaders became aware of the worldwide impact. As Denis Hayes first rallied the United States in 1970, this time, 200 million people in 141 countries became involved, lifting the status of environmental issues to the world arena and all mankind.

From that center stage campaign in 1990, recycling efforts worldwide paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

As 2000 inched closer and closer, another campaign was spearheaded by Hayes, only this time, it focused on global warming and the idea that clean energy was possible. Earth Day 2000 merged the issues brought before in earlier campaigns, but also included the global involvement that Earth Day 1990 ignited.

The Internet became a powerful force, linking activists from Africa, to Brazil, back to the United States. As the clock stroke midnight on April 22nd, 2000, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were ready to reach out to hundreds of millions of people in 184 countries. Events gathered thousands across the globe, sending a message loud and clear that the people of the world were listening to Mother Nature’s cry for help.

Today, the fight still continues. Therefore, as Earth Day 2010 approaches, make small changes that will help keep our world beautiful for generations to come.

Read an account of THE HISTORY OF EARTH DAY, straight from the Founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson.

Source: Earth Day Network

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