Earth Day: A 47 Year Tradition

Written by Kayley Winkelman, ESLLC 2016-2017

Earth Day was inspired by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and the first Earth day was held on April 22th, 2017.  Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea for a national environmental awareness day and recruited other activists to help with his vision.  Denis Hayes was a politically activist and recent graduate from Stanford University and acted as the national coordinator for the first Earth Day, he also enlisted U.S. Representative for California, Pete McCloskey as the co-chairman of the event. Approximately 20 million people participated on the first Earth Day, from protests at universities to public gatherings talking about the environment and ways to protect it. During this time, environmental concerns were just starting to surface and many people only knew about certain issues. This is one of the first times that all the activists from different areas, like water quality, air quality, and wilderness and wildlife protection, came together in unity to support the environment as a whole.

Earth Day has continued annually since 1970 and is held on April 22nd. In 1990, it became a global affair, with 184 countries participating. Earth Day has helped create the public awareness that helped push for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Clean Air Act, Water Quality Improvement Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Currently, Earth Day not only represents a day to stop and appreciate the earth, but a day to help stand up for the injustices done to the planet. Many protests, conferences, and marches are organized on Earth Day, to help raise awareness for the crisis our planet is in and to have their voices heard by the government. This year the United States’ March for Science was held on Earth Day. Earth Day can be a strategic day to discuss environmental issues because people are already focused on the planet, and utilizing this day to discuss the importance of science can have deeper felt appeals. This is the first year under the new administration that does not believe climate change is serious concern, and more people rallied for science this Earth Day to let their voices be heard.

But people do not solely participate in Earth Day by attending protests and marches. There are many ways people celebrate our planet and some of the most common is to do a community clean up, plant trees, or just go out in nature and appreciate it’s beauty. By getting outside, you are not only basking in all the beauty that our planet is, but you are also powering down for a portion of the day which saves power and energy. By making the conscious decision to limit your negative impact and raise your positive impact, the Earth is able to recover, even if it’s only a little bit just on that day.

The image above is from Denver’s first Earth Day celebration in 1970.




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