Celebrating the History of Earth Day

Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics

This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.

Earth Day is a day of action and a celebration of the birth of the modern environmental movement. On April 22nd 1970, the first Earth Day was a day of national protest. US Senator Gaylord Nelson was inspired by the Vietnam War protests on college campuses, and decided to organize a large-scale grassroots demonstration to educate Americans about the important of environmentalism.

It worked. 20 million people across the US participated in the first Earth Day. And the influence of Nelson’s idea didn’t stop there. 1970 saw the founding of the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Protection Agency. The environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace was founded soon after, in 1971. Within the next few years, the burgeoning environmental movement managed to pass the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Endangered Species Act.

In 1980, Gaylord Nelson lost his seat in the Senate. At this point, he decided to continue his environmental work outside of government, joining The Wilderness Society.  He would receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in founding Earth Day from President Clinton in in 1995 – the highest honor awarded to civilians in the US.

In 1990, Earth Day went global. The 20th Anniversary celebration spanned 141 different countries, with 200 million participants. It boosted recycling efforts worldwide and set the stage for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.

The movement reached another milestone in 2000, when Earth Day focused on the pressing issues of global warming and the need for clean energy. 5,000 environmental groups in 184 different countries helped organize the event.

In 2005, Gaylord Nelson passed away at age 89. He lived to see Earth Day grow to a truly global scale – current estimates place the number of participants in this annual celebration at over one billion people worldwide.

How are Care2 readers celebrating Earth Day? Are you participating in an Earth Day event in your city? Or do you prefer to appreciate the beauty of the natural world in your own private way?


Related Stories:

Celebrating 40 Years Of Activism: 7 Ways To Get Involved For Earth Day

Earth Day Web Site Tells Inspiring Story

100000 Endangered Species Condoms Given Away for Earth Day

Photo credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Mark D. you are absolutely right!
Until next Earth Day, we must all push the UNglorification of the 1% of psycho(-or more aptly named ECO/TERRAPATHS)-paths who DESECRATE our EARTH!!!
If and when we succeed, we can really celebrate!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner6 years ago

At this point the fate of Earth should be mourned not celebrated. The tide of destruction from global corporate criminals is far greater than and overwhelming the constructive actions.

Marty Piotruszewicz Rajan
Marty rajandran6 years ago

I was in Wisconsin for the first earth day. And I missed it....probably at an Anti War demonstration. Senator Nelson was well known for environment issues long before it became critical to our survival. Many thought he was a "kook'" ..... I am so proud of him and his vision which has become a global movement for change. Thank you sir!

Carmen n.
Carmen n6 years ago

I was 26 the first Earth Day, living in New York City with my four-year-old firstborn, a single mother being courted by a recently returned VietVet, who would become the father of my second. He turned me on to pot, and to Earth Day, and off we went to lower Manhattan, where I was inspireid to seize the moment and plop my butt down in the middle of the intersection of 14th and Fifth Ave with my son and my lover... and soon the whole intersection was solid with sitting, singing people... don't remember what we sang, though, probably something Beatles... and that's my story of the first Earth day! Where were you?

John Mansky
John Mansky6 years ago

Very good article,thank you...

Elaine Pequegnat
Elaine Pequegnat6 years ago

Good reminder of the difference one person can make when he inspires common people to understand and care.
Lots more to be done. But what an amazing beginning!

Shari J.
Shari J.6 years ago

I remember the first Earth Day, back in Junior High we were all let out to pick up trash around the school. Hard to believe it has been over 40 years!

Nelson Petrie
Nelson Petrie6 years ago

Happy Earth Day to all readers and bloggers. I hope Romney and his lackeys know the true meaning of Earth Day. I hope Obama too is seriously thinking of our planet earth.

eusebio vestias

´Hoje é muito inportante as novas gerações futuras saberem a importancia que o nosso planeta sofre com muitas politicas de muitos governos deste planeta Eu como amigo do planeta terra quero dar os meus parabéns as organizações ambientalistas deste planeta terra todos juntos pelo nosso planeta terra

Chris M.
Chris M6 years ago

Earth day = everyday...