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Earth Day International - Largest Civic Event in the World

The Founding of Earth Day

Ecology Symbol Gaylord Nelson, environmental activist and US senator from Wisconsin, is credited as having created the first Earth Day in 1970. His efforts were in response to the outrage he felt on the devastation created by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill.  Inspired by the student antiwar movement, he conceived the idea of a national teach-in on the environment to be observed by every university campus in United States.

In his proposal for a national teach-in, Gaylord Nelson referred to “the new generation, stemming the tide of environmental disaster, presenting facts clearly and dramatically and the imminent crisis.”  His words are even more applicable to the current state of the planet than when he was looking at its condition over forty years ago.

Image is the "Ecology Symbol"

Nelson began to promote his ideas anywhere he could - to a small conservation group in Seattle on September 20, 1969 and, in the following week, in a meeting with auto workers. Nelson, a Democrat, reached out to Paul McCloskey, a Republican, as his co-chair.  Many young people, mostly college students, were brought into the organizing effort in Washington D.C. 

The time was right.  With little organizing effort even possible, Earth Day formed spontaneously from  thousands of individuals and groups responding at the grassroots level. On April 22, 1970, 20 million demonstrators participated along with thousands of schools and local communities, marking the beginning of the environmental movement.

Continued Importance of Earth Day

Ecology Flag Earth Day Network manages and organizes Earth Day and related environmental education and policy activities such as school Greening's year-round.


While the official day for celebrating Earth Day is April 22 each year, environmental activist groups schedule activities throughout the month of April.
Image is the "Ecology Flag"

Earth Day is needed is a rallying gate to rekindle public commitment, build community activism and broaden the base of support for environmental programs. That It has become the largest civic event in the world with more than 1 billion people participating in campaigns every year speaks for its ability to unite all nations under one cause.

What Can I Do for Earth Day?

Earth Week Logo Any activity that brings you, the individual, closer to stewardship of the earth is a good activity for Earth Day. Consider taking on any simple/complex task that impacts our planet in a good way.  Realize that a large number of people each doing a little can work to change the direction the world is heading. 
  • Change one of your habits to reduce your carbon footprint - take public transportation, turn out the lights, recycle more, buy with less packaging, buy organic, use fewer throw-aways
  • Help clean up or build a community garden
  • Speak with your elected officials about the need for protecting the environment
  • Meet new people by participating in an organized Earth Day activity
  • Make Earth Day every day.
From Earth Day Network:  "Earth Day is every day. To build a better future, we all must commit to protect our environment year-round."

What are you doing for Earth Day? Looking for ideas? Check out the Earth Day Network website for ideas on how to help activate your community.


Notable Years with Earth Day

1970 20 million demonstrators
200 million people in 141 countries with a focus on recycleing
Earth Day network founded by Earth Day organizations in New York, San Diego, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Canada. Create an international network dedicated to supporting grassroots Earth Day organizing.
25th anniversary of Earth Day
Use of the Internet as principal organizing tool.  5000 environmental groups outside the US.  Hundreds of millions of people in 183 countries. Focus on global warming and clean energy.
Estimated 1 billion people participating in thousands of locations.
40th anniversary. Multiple global initiatives including global day of conversation, green investment, green economyI
Focus on Climate change

Images courtesy Wikipedia.  For more information on Earth Day, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day


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Posted: February 7, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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