THE HISTORY OF EARTH DAY
Each year, Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.
Setting the stage for the first earth day
The height of counterculture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” War raged in Vietnam and students nationwide overwhelmingly opposed it.
At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news.
Although mainstream America largely remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries, and beginning to raise public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and links between pollution and public health.
Earth Day 1970 gave voice to that emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page.
Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in nearly 192 countries to build environmental democracy. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. We work through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.
The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in more than 190 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.
A VISION FOR CHANGE
As the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day approaches, the time is long overdue for a global outpouring of energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to create a new environmental paradigm. Earth Day 2020 can be the catalyst that galvanizes an unparalleled global collaboration.
Earth Day Today
As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. With 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reaching out to hundreds of millions of people, Earth Day 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. Earth Day 2000 used the power of the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC for a First Amendment Rally. Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on global warming and clean energy.
Much like 1970, Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community. Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community all contributed to the narrative—cynicism versus activism. Despite these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a relevant, powerful focal point. Earth Day Network brought 250,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally, launched the world’s largest environmental service project—A Billion Acts of Green®–introduced a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into The Canopy Project, and engaged 22,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day.
Earth Day had reached into its current status as the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, and a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.
Today, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more manifest every day. We invite you to be a part of Earth Day and help write many more chapters—struggles and victories—into the Earth Day book.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day Network is launching an ambitious set of goals to shape the future of 21st century environmentalism. Learn more here.
Earth Day 2019 – Protect our Species
“In nature, nothing exists alone.” — Rachel Carson, 1962
Nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of species that we know and love, and many more that remain to be discovered. Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity.
The unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far reaching.
If we do not act now, extinction may be humanity’s most enduring legacy. Here are some quick facts on the current wave of extinction and additional information about this problem here.
All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life. We must work together to protect endangered and threatened species: bees, coral reefs, elephants, giraffes, insects, whales and more.
The good news is that the rate of extinctions can still be slowed, and many of our declining, threatened and endangered species can still recover if we work together now to build a united global movement of consumers, voters, educators, faith leaders, and scientists to demand immediate action.
Earth Day Network is asking people to join our Protect our Species campaign. Our goals are to:
• Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
• Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
• Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
• Encourage individual actions such as adopting plant based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.
What can you do to be a part of the big picture?
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