• The History of Earth Day

    On April 22nd, Earth Day celebrations will be observed all over the USA in what has grown into an international happening. In fact, more than a billion people now participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.

    2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a special event that began in 1970 as a protest movement announced by Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was a Congressman from Wisconsin. Senator Nelson served three terms during the 1960s and 1970s. As a legislator he passionately championed conservation policies to protect our environment and ensure a healthier planet for future generations. Senator Nelson was instrumental in passing legislations, for example, that created a national hiking system and preserved the 2,100-mile long Appalachian Trail.

    But he is best known for creating the observance of Earth Day, an idea that Senator Nelson said came to him in 1962 after he suggested that President John F. Kennedy go on a national conservation tour. Kennedy visited 11 states the following year to bring attention to the need to care for the environment, and although the tour did generate interest it did not spark change on a national level.

    So in 1970 Senator Nelson announced a national protest dubbed "Earth Day" in support of the environment. His plan got the attention of the New York Times - which ran a special feature about Earth Day - and as news of the event spread throughout the USA more than 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities organized themselves through a grassroots effort. Tens of thousands of people gathered in NYC, for example, and Congress adjourned for the entire day so that Senators and Representatives could give attend Earth Day events and give speeches to their constituents.

    As Nelson himself later explained, the most remarkable thing about Earth Day was that it organized itself because people were inspired to think of their creative ways to celebrate the event.

    On Earth Day people throughout the country will celebrate with various activities. But Earth Day celebrations are scheduled during almost the whole month of April and some extend throughout the entire year. Those who want to know how to participate, where to find Earth Day events, or to learn more about Earth Day programs and ways to support them can visit the Earth Day Network site at www.earthday.net/earthday2010.

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