Tag Archives: Earth Day

History of Earth Day

President Kennedy’s five day national conservation tour in 1963 sowed the seeds for the eventual establishment of Earth Day.  The idea, an effort to bring national political attention to the care and importance of our environment, derived from Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1962.

Nelson believed that if the President would participate in conservation efforts, the support of the country would follow.  While he was not completely incorrect, there was not an immediate adoption of a day to honor the environment.

Several years after Kennedy’s eleven state tour, Nelson closely watched the anti-Vietnam War protests throughout the country and realized that if the same amount of energy could be harnessed in support of the environment – politicians could no longer ignore the pressing issue of declining environmental condition.  The inspiration that he received from watching the “teach-ins” taking place on college campuses throughout most of the country provided inspiration for a way to gain national political support for the environment. He used his own influence to establish a national protest in favor of the environment to be held during the early part of 1970.

Nelson’s public and national announcement of this demonstration excited the American public, who for the months leading up to the protest sent letters and donations of support to the Senator and his organization to begin Earth Day recognition efforts.  Perhaps the country was relieved to see reason for positive protesting in light of the horrors of the Vietnam War, or perhaps they because afraid when national media attention became directed at the mistreatment and decline of the environment – but regardless of why it happened – the Senator gained huge support.

Nelson remarks today that Earth Day really did organize itself. Although he took the time and patience to get the idea moving – he never expected the 20 million people who turned up nationally in support of environmental protection in the United States.

It is notable to remark that during the same year of 1970 that Earth Day was first celebrated, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed by President Richard Nixon. Beginning that year, and continuing through present day, the national government has taken a vested interest in protecting the environment from harmful pollution in order to preserve the Earth we have now for generations to come.

Gaylord Nelson continued his devotion for the environment through the next decade as a US Senator, and in honor of his contributions to environmental protection and towards the improvement of our future he was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1995 by President Bill Clinton. In addition to establishing Earth Day, Nelson provided many other types of support for environmental causes which encompassed a span of several decades. Nelson was also the recipient of the EPA Only One Award and the Ansel Adams Conservation Award.

Earth Day continues to evolve, seemingly on its own merit and with little in the way of structured organizations. Most college campuses and cities within the US recognize the importance of celebrating and preserving nature as it was intended in order to guarantee a safe and healthy future for generations to come.

Each year, Earth Day is dedicated to a specific item of interest in addition to the environment in general.  In 2006 the topic of interest was affecting climate change and reducing global warming.  The three year campaign to get attention and action directed towards these topics will hopefully result in a renewed commitment to the environment throughout the world.

What Is Earth Day

Celebrating Mother Earth on Earth Day

April 22nd is a special day in America. It’s the day we celebrate Mother Earth and our environment. It’s a day set aside to help initiate laws and habits that protect our planet from further pollution, global warming, deforestation and all the other things that human habitation has done to hurt her. It’s a day to replenish and renew, a day to try to heal the scars that mar her surface and appreciate what she has to offer.

For centuries, man has abused the Earth, but in the 1960’s, people began to notice what human habitation had done to lands, rivers and oceans. America took notice and attitudes began to change. Attention was focused on the devastating effects of toxic waste and pollution, brought about mostly because of the photographs taken in space for the first time as man orbited the globe and stepped on the surface of the moon. In 1968, the very first photograph of earth taken from space showed Mother Earth as we had never seen her, or appreciated her before, and the image stuck in the minds of billions of earth dwellers. Future oil and chemical spills were no longer shrugged off or ignored, nor were the sufferings of millions of animals caught in such spills. The 1960’s were a time of public demonstrations, not only against the war in Vietnam, but also focusing on the results of pollution. Movements that saw thousands of people living off the land became all the rage.

Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin, was the first to address the issues of the environment on a public level, and he felt that education on the environment should be addressed on college campuses throughout the nation. He promoted the concept of an Earth Day to his colleagues, as well as governors, mayors and college newspapers, right on down to the elementary school level. In 1970, his efforts began to pay off and national newspapers wrote about his concept. By December of that year, Nelson was forced to open a separate office to deal with the influx of telegrams, letters and telephone calls about his plan to institute a national Earth Day in the United States. Finally, in 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was founded, followed a couple of years later by the Clean Air Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973. While Earth Day had yet to be nationally recognized, it’s concept grew until organizations promoting Mother Earth, especially Greenpeace, established in Canada in 1971, began to promote peaceful protests against a multitude of anti-earth practices followed by global corporations and businesses.

Recycling of trash became popular in the 1980’s and continues to this day, and in 1990, Earth Day seemed to make a huge impact around the world as more than 200 million people joined in efforts to clean up local towns and cities, planted trees, cleared riverbanks, and other efforts to protect the land. The 25th anniversary of the very first Earth Day in 1995 was celebrated with reports of cleaner air, expanding forests and a decline of the number of endangered species.

Earth Day is a day for every American to do their part to ensure that the United States of America continues to monitor its own use of valuable land and water resources. It’s a day when school children, parents, business owners and farmers unite to protect a limited resource. Our environment counts on every American to do his or her part to make sure that we protect forests and waterways that will insure continued life. While our environment is a global concern, America, as one of the richest nations in the world, must be a leader and an example to the rest of the world when it comes to being environmentally friendly.