Earth Day

Earth Day

Earth Day is a well known day dedicated to the environment. In general, Earth day is a period of time that is intended to increase awareness and appreciation of the natural environment and ways in which people can help the environment on a daily basis, but the effort it took to establish this day are often taken for granted. The late 1960s and early 1970s marked the world’s first real interest in environmental conservation. Previously, the Earth’s environment was a side note, as well as being an issue easily overlooked by governments across the world. As was a key component of the time, people started to bring important issues to light through protests and other forms of activism. Issues such as air pollution, water pollution, toxic dumping, etc., which were once of little consequence, quickly became headlining issues. The environmentally aware era of the 1960s can be considered an important catalyst to the formation of Earth Day.

Today Earth Day has turned into an international event, but in 1970 there was not a uniform Earth Day, instead there was one leader’s dream and separate events that took place across the country. The principle leader and credited founder of Earth Day is Senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was a member of the Senate that new the importance of the environment and wanted to spearhead a program that would educate Americans and help gain support for an environmental agenda in coming years. Nelson felt that the most effective model for improving awareness would be through environmental teach-ins. These teach-ins, which were also used for the Vietnam War, would take place on every university campus in the nation. To allow for the most potential participation, Nelson chose a time where college students did not have to worry about exams or major holidays, April 22, as the day for his Earth awareness teach-ins. Nelson’s objective gained a great deal of support and in its inaugural year, Earth Day had more than 500 million participants. The key to Earth Day’s initial success was the fact that there was not a specific governing body managing the event. Instead, the implementation of Earth Day was left to individual activists groups, which were most commonly led by students. The result was self-started, autonomous Earth Day events that took place across the country. For example, the 1970, New York Earth Day was organized by student activists and led to the shutting down of 5th Avenue and Central Park. Over one million people participated in the event and it was supported by then New York Mayor, John Lindsay. Philadelphia also hosted its very own Earth week from April 16-22. Also led by students, this event spent a week educating about and celebrating the wonders of the Earth.

In the decades that followed the first Earth Day, efforts grew to consolidate efforts and gain support. In order to concentrate the efforts of the thousands of individual community organizations that supported Earth Day, organizations such as Earth Day USA and the Earth Day Network were formed. These groups bring together NGOs, local governments, activists groups and other environmental aware parties, in order to encourage environmental education on a local, national and international level. The Earth Day Network currently boasts of having over 10,000 groups and 100,000 educators. With the combined efforts of international groups, more than 170 countries and 1.5 billion people have been included in Earth Day, making it one of the world’s most widely celebrated annual events.




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