How much do you know about the history of Earth Day?
For the past 51 years, we have used April 22 as a day to recognize the beauty and fragility of our planet, and to show support for environmental protection. But how did it come to be?
In 1969, a senator by the name of Gaylord Nelson wanted to alert people about the deteriorating environmental conditions since the Industrial Revolution. At the time, America's youth was riled up by Vietnam and largely engaged in anti-war protests. Nelson thought he could capitalize on that fervor and turn some of the attention toward air and water pollution. He, along with Congressman Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes, organized dozens of college campus lectures that would be broadcast to the national media.
But finding a time that would minimize interference in order to maximize student engagement was tricky. Eventually, they decided on April 22, a date which fell between Spring Break and final exams. Then, they named the event 'Earth Day' - which in and of itself quickly garnered national attention. Millions of people began to demonstrate about the lack of environmental awareness.
The beautiful thing about this was that it received support from all directions, politically and socially. Shortly after the first Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and numerous environmental laws were passed.
In 1990, 20 years after the inaugural Earth Day, Hayes was approached with a bigger goal in mind: make Earth Day a global event. It was a rousing success, boosting worldwide recycling efforts, while also helping to pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit Brazil.
To this day, Earth Day remains one of the largest secular observances in the world!