April 22, 1970.
People in major cities across the United States of America, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles took to the streets. Americans of all ages rallied together to march and listen to speeches and performances from various political figures, actors, and singers. Why did thousands take a pause during their day?
April 22, 1970 was in honor of something so important that the nation continues to celebrate it today. This was the first Earth Day, initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) as a day of education about environmental issues and to demonstrate support of environmental protection. He used grassroots efforts to make this possible, which means that this day was organized by the people. Everyday people jumped into action to raise awareness and to spread the word.
Student activist, Denis Hayes, oversaw the first Earth Day with the help of some volunteers on his campus, as well as a few of Senator Nelson’s staff members. Nelson went on to say that the first Earth Day wouldn’t have been the great success it was without the massive response and action from the people of the United States. April 22 is now recognized as Earth Day by over 190 countries and mobilizes over a billion people each year to take action.
By the end of this day in 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed along with the passage of the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Education Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Not long after that, the Clean Water Act was passed and eventually the Endangered Species Act.
Just because environmental laws and regulations have been accepted in the past doesn’t mean that they are safe forever. You can stay up to date on the status of environmental policies and pay attention to how current and future administrations handle the health of the Earth.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, typically celebrated as a time of togetherness. Usually, this is a day that we can come together to act, demonstrate, vocalize, and challenge our neighbors and representatives for the promotion of a healthier Earth. Although Earth Day 2020 must be celebrated much differently, we can connect over the internet and social media. We also can perform little acts of kindness for the Earth at home and plan for long-term changes and action. Hopefully, sometime soon, we can all come together to celebrate Earth Day every day.
Photo credit and more about the artist: https://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O100756/earth-day-poster-leydenfrost-robert/
Additional Earth Day Sources: