Earth Day

Earth Day is one of two observances, both held annually during spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern hemisphere. These are intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth's environment. The United Nations celebrates an Earth Day each year on the March equinox, a tradition which was founded by peace activist John McConnell in 1969. A second Earth Day, which was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in in 1970, is celebrated in many countries each year on April 22.

History of the April 22 Earth Day

In September 1969, at a conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on the environment. Senator Nelson first proposed the nationwide environmental protest to thrust the environment onto the national agenda.” "It was a gamble," he recalls, "but it worked."

Five months before the first April 22 Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, "The New York Times" carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the rising tide of environmental events:

"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...." Senator Nelson also hired Denis Hayes as the coordinator.

Each year, the April 22 Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.Among other things, 1970 in the United States brought with it the Kent State shootings, the advent of fiber optics, "Bridge over Troubled Water," Apollo 13, the Beatles' last album, the death of Jimi Hendrix, and the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina -- an incident not acknowledged for 18 years.At the time, most Americans were consuming leaded gas in massive V8 sedans. Heavy industry released smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperityFact|date=April 2008. "Environment" was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. The 1970 Earth Day helped to change many peoples' minds.

On April 22, 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable environment. Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day on April 22 in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the Internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 rolled around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.

Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy.Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.

Founded by the organizers of the first April 22 Earth Day in 1970, [ Earth Day Network] promotes environmental citizenship and year round progressive action worldwide. Earth Day Network is a driving force steering environmental awareness around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect change in local, national, and global policies. Earth Day Network’s international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year. Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year.

History of the Equinox Earth Day

The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around 20 March) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy is that moment in time (not a whole day) when the center of the Sun can be observed to be directly "above" the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. In most cultures the equinoxes and solstices are considered to start or separate the seasons.

John McConnell [ [ "EarthSite"] ] first introduced the idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day" at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. Celebrations were held in various cities including San Francisco, in Davis, California with a multi-day street party, and elsewhere. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell's global initiative to celebrate this annual event, and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:

May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life. [ [ "2004 Earth Day"] . United Nations "Cyberschoolbus". Accessed April 25 2006.]

Secretary General Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies on the March equinox in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox (the United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22nd global event). Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:

"EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.
EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth as seen from space appropriate." [ Margaret Mead, "Earth Day," EPA Journal, March 1978.]
At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe Earth Day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, a bell donated by Japan to the United Nations. [ [ "Japanese Peace Bell"] United Nations "Cyberschoolbus". Accessed April 25 2006.] Over the years celebrations have occurred in various cities worldwide at the same time as the celebration at the UN. On March 20, 2008, in addition to the ceremony at the United Nations, ceremonies were held in New Zealand, and bells were sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo and many other locations. The equinox Earth Day at the UN is organized by the Earth Society Foundation [ [ "Earth Society Foundation"] ]

The April 22 Earth Day

Growing eco-activism before Earth Day 1970

The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US, in both theory and practice. It was in the mid-1960s that Congress passed the sweeping Wilderness Act, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked, "Who speaks for the trees?" Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, New York, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her shocking bestseller Silent Spring (1962).

Earth Day 1970

Responding to widespread environmental degradation, Gaylord Nelson, a United States Senator from Wisconsin, called for an environmental teach-in, or Earth Day, to be held on April 22 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and Earth Day is now observed each year on April 22 by more than 500 million people and national governments in 175 countries. Senator Nelson, an environmental activist, took a leading role in organizing the celebration, hoping to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda and combat global cooling. He modeled it on the highly effective Vietnam War protests of the time. [Brown, Tim (April 11 2005). [ "What is Earth Day?"] . United States Department of State. Accessed April 25 2006.] The concept of Earth Day was first proposed in a memo to JFK written by Fred Dutton.cite web|title=Fred Dutton 1923-2005|url=]

According to Santa Barbara, California Community Environmental Council:

The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after that horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth. [ [ "Earth Day"] . Santa Barbara Community Environmental Council. Accessed April 25 2006.]

Senator Nelson selected Denis Hayes, a Harvard University graduate student, as the national coordinator of activities. Hayes said he wanted Earth Day to "bypass the traditional political process."cite web | url =,9171,943782,00.html | title = "A Memento Mori to the Earth" | accessdate = | date = 1970-05-04 | work = Time ] Garrett DuBell compiled and edited The Environmental Handbook the first guide to the Environmental Teach-In. Its symbol was a green Greek letter theta, "the dead theta".

The nationwide event included opposition to the Vietnam War on the agenda, but this was thought to detract for the environmental message. Pete Seeger was a keynote speaker and performer at the event held in Washington DC. Paul Newman and Ali McGraw attended the event held in New York City. [ [ "Environment"] . United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand. Accessed April 25 2006.]

The most notable organization to protest the event was the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Results of Earth Day 1970

Earth Day proved popular in the United States and around the world. The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform." [Lewis, Jack (November 1985). [ "The Birth of EPA"] . United States Environmental Protection Agency." Accessed April 25 2006.]

Senator Nelson stated that Earth Day "worked" because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. Twenty-million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated. [Nelson, Gaylord. [ "How the First Earth Day Came About"] . Accessed April 22 2007] He directly credited the first Earth Day with persuading U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. Many important laws were passed by the Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, wild lands and the ocean, and the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

It is now observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year." [ [ "About Earth Day Network"] . Accessed April 22 2007] Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes. [ "History of Earth Day"] . Earth Day Network. Accessed April 25 2006.]

The significance of the date

*April 22 was the birthday of actor Eddie Albert. Because of Eddie Albert's early work with environmental causes and groups, when International Earth Day was created, it was decided it must be held on April 22 because that is his birthday. cite web|title=Eddie Albert Bio||url=|accessdate=2008-04-01|date=2008]
*April 21 was the birthday of John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club. This was not lost on organizers who thought that April 22 was Muir's birthday.
*April 22 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladimir Lenin. "Time" reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick," and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them." J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. [Finney, John W. "MUSKIE SAYS F.B.I. SPIED AT RALLIES ON '70 EARTH DAY". "The New York Times", April 15 1971. p. 1.] The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters, [Citation |title= Of Leo and Lenin: Happy Earth Day from the Religious Right |journal= Church & State |volume= 53 |issue= 5 |date= May 2000 |pages= 20 ] [cite web |url= |title= This Earth Day Celebrate Vladimir Lenin's Birthday! |accessdate= 2007-04-22 |last= Marriott |first= Alexander |date= 2004-04-21 |work= Capitalism Magazine ] although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist.
*April 22 is also the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, a national tree-planting holiday started in 1872. Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska in 1885, to be permanently observed on April 22. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation "the most common day for the state observances is the last Friday in April . . . but a number of state Arbor Days are at other times to coincide with the best tree planting weather." [cite web |url= |title= Arbor Day's Beginnings |accessdate=2007-04-22 |publisher= The National Arbor Day Foundation ] It has since been largely eclipsed by the more widely observed Earth Day, except in Nebraska, where it originated.
* Nelson chose the date as the one that could maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an environmental teach-in He determined that the week of April 19-25 was the best bet. It did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other events mid-week, so he chose Wednesday, April 22. Asked whether he had purposely chosen Lenin's 100th birthday, Nelson explained that with only 365 days a year and 3.7 billion people in the world, every day was the birthday of ten million living people. “On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” he said. “A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22. So was Queen Isabella. More importantly, so was my Aunt Tillie.” [Christofferson, Bill, "The Man from Clear Lake: Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson",University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 2004, p. 310]

Earth Week

Many cities extend the Earth Day celebration to be an entire week, usually starting on April 16, and ending on Earth Day, April 22nd.cite web|title=City Celebrates Earth Week|publisher=City of Chicago|date=2007|accessdate=2008-04-01|url=,+engine+has+been+restarted&contenTypeName=COC_EDITORIAL&]

Earth Day Ecology Flag

. Theta would later become associated with Earth Day.

As a 16-year-old high school student, Betsy Vogel, an environmental advocate and social activist that enjoyed sewing costumes and unique gifts, made a 4 x convert|6|ft|m|sing=on green and white "theta" ecology flag to commemorate the first Earth Day. Initially denied permission to fly the flag at C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, Vogel sought and received authorization from the Louisiana State Legislature and Louisiana Governor John McKeithen in time to display the flag for Earth Day.

Criticisms of Earth Day

Some environmentalists have grown critical of Earth Day, particularly those in the Bright green environmentalism camp. They charge that Earth Day has come to symbolize the marginalization of environmental sustainability, and that the celebration itself has outlived its usefulness [ [ WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Make This Earth Day Your Last!] ] .

ee also

* Chemists Celebrate Earth Day
* Earth Charter
* Earth Day Sunday
* Earth flag
* Earth Hour
* Green Apple Music & Arts Festival (GAMAF)
* List of environmental dates
* Ozone Action Day
* Procession of the Species
* Sun-Earth Day
* World Environment Day
* One World Flag


External links

April 22 Earth Day
* [ Earth Day Website] - Community website on Earth Day.
* [ Earth Day Network] - Coordinating worldwide events for Earth Day.
* [ Earth Day Event Calendar] at the EnviroLink Network
* [ Celebrate Earth Day] How to Celebrate Earth Day from WikiHow
* [ United States Earth Day] - The U.S. government's "Earth Day" site.
* [ Earth Day Canada] - The Canadian Official Site for "Earth Day"
* [ Keep America Beautiful] - Keep America Beautiful holds Earth Day cleanup activities in communities nationwide. The organization launched the famous Crying Indian campaign on Earth Day, 1971.
* [ Earth Day at Dhammakaya Temple]
* [ YouTube Earth Day Contest] - Earth Day Video Contest on YouTube

Equinoctal Earth Day
* [ International Earth Day] - The Official Site - Spring/Vernal Equinox
* [ Earth Society Foundation] - Official organization arranging annual equinox Earth Day celebration at the United Nations

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