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The History of Earth Day

Posted by: Anna | 04/14/2015 at 03:35 PM


The History of Earth Day

A mix of political and environmental factors is what spurred the first Earth Day in 1970. The Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 prompted Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson to examine how he could use the energy from the student-led anti-war protests to launch environmental awareness onto the political stage. His goal was simple: get citizens to realize the current state of the environment and what needed to change. Nelson issued a call to action that he labeled a “teach-in on the environment.”  Its purpose was to showcase the environmental issues of the time that needed to be addressed: oil spills, animal extinction and toxic industrial waste to name a few.

The impact was immediate. Americans everywhere demonstrated against environmental hazards and challenged the government to enact legislation that would protect the environment. Three key things resulted from that first massive environmental awareness movement:

  • Earth Day was initially celebrated in April of 1970. Twenty million people rallied across the United States against the slow deterioration of the environment.
  • In December of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created as a singular governmental agency to spearhead the federal environmental research, monitoring and enforcement of environmental violations.
  • The Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts were created to improve the environment.

The recent focus on recycling and green energy would make one think that Earth Day is a recent phenomenon. However, this year we celebrate its 45th anniversary. Want to learn more about Earth Day? Check out this video.


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