History of Earth Day: April 22, 2014

By Elise Gabriele,

This year is the 44th anniversary of Earth Day. To commemorate the annual tradition, in which over one billion people in 190 countries take action against the environmental challenges of our time, like the highly controversial topic of global warming, we look at the holiday's history.

EarthDay.org states that communities from San Francisco to San Juan, Beijing to Brussels, Moscow to Marrakesh commit to planting trees, cleaning up the outdoors and contacting their elected officials about environmental initiatives and sustainability.

In the 1970s, the modern environmental movement began while American soldiers were at war in Vietnam. Americans drove gas-guzzling cars, there were no legal consequences, and air pollution was commonplace.

According to Green Cities, Rachel Carson wrote the New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962, which revealed the need for the modern environmental movement to the American people. Carson raised public awareness about the neglect of living organisms, the environment and public health.

Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson, who came upon the idea for the successful environmental day when he realized he could combine the student anti-war movements with the education about air and water pollution that Carson revealed to the public. In 1970, Nelson announced to the national media he would work with a staff of 85 people to promote, what he called, a “national teach-in on the environment” and environmental awareness events across the U.S.

During the year of the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans rallied across the country for a healthy, sustainable environment. Protests against the deterioration of the environment included bring criticism against oil spills; pollution from factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides; the danger of freeways to animals and the environment; deforestation and the extinction of wildlife, according to Green Cities.

Nelson’s initiation of the first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clear Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Twenty years later, in 1990, Earth Day went global with 200 million people in 141 countries working to generate recycling efforts across the globe. In fact, Earth Day was such a success that President Clinton awarded Nelson the 1995 Presidential Medal of Freedom for founding Earth Day.

Technological advancements have skyrocketed since the establishment of Earth Day in 1970 and even since the Earth Day Network began using the internet to organize activists in 2000.

The expansion and availability of the internet today on smart-phones allows people across the world to keep up on environmental news and this years Earth Day events.

For this year's environmental holiday, Refinery29 recommended a number of activities including what they describe as the Instagram-worthy flowers at the California Poppy Festival, the educational L.A. Zoo Earth Day Expo in which people can learn about wildlife conservation and preservation, and the Aquarium of the Pacific Earth Day Celebration which people can bring in old electronic items to be recycled and get $10 off of admission.

For more information about Earth Day events and activities please visit Earthday.org.

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