Happy Earth Day

April 22, 2020

History

The first Earth Day dates to April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans across the United States took to the streets and college campuses to protest environmental ignorance and promote environmental awareness. This movement is now recognized as the world’s largest civic event each year and launched two important government initiatives: the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

Earth Day is celebrated by most Americans on April 22. There is another celebration that is celebrated internationally and predates that one by approximately a month.

The first Earth Day celebration occurred on March 21, 1970, the vernal equinox that year. Newspaper publisher and influential community activist John McConnell proposed the premise of a global holiday called Earth Day at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969. The idea was an annual observance to remind people of their shared responsibility as environmental stewards. McConnell selected the vernal equinox as the ideal day since it is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the southern hemisphere. At the vernal equinox, night and day are the same length everywhere on Earth. McConnell believed that Earth Day should be a time of equilibrium when people could put aside their differences and recognize their common need to preserve Earth’s resources.

On February 26, 1971, U.N. Secretary-General U Thant signed a proclamation saying that the United Nations would celebrate Earth Day annually on the vernal equinox, thereby officially establishing the March date as the international Earth Day. The United Nations continues to celebrate Earth Day each year by ringing the Peace Bell at U.N. headquarters in New York at the precise moment of the vernal equinox.

Separately, on April 22, 1970, the Environmental Teach-In held a nationwide day of environmental education and activism that it called Earth Day. The event was inspired and organized by environmental activist and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. He wanted to show other politicians that there was widespread public support for a political agenda centered on environmental issues. Nelson began organizing the event from his Senate office, assigning two staff members to work on it, but soon more space and more people were needed. John Gardner, the founder of Common Cause, donated office space. Nelson selected Harvard University student Denis Hayes to coordinate Earth Day activities and gave him a staff of volunteer college students to help.

The event was wildly successful, sparking Earth Day celebrations at thousands of colleges, universities, schools, and communities across the United States. An October 1993 article in American Heritage Magazine proclaimed, “…April 22, 1970, Earth Day was…one of the most remarkable happenings in the history of democracy…20 million people demonstrated their support…American politics and public policy would never be the same again.”

Following the Earth Day celebration inspired by Nelson, which demonstrated widespread grassroots support for the environmental legislation, Congress passed many important environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, as well as laws to protect wilderness areas. The Environmental Protection Agency was created within three years after Earth Day 1970.

In 1995, Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton for his role in founding Earth Day, raising awareness of environmental issues, and promoting environmental action.

No matter when you celebrate Earth Day, its message about the personal responsibility we all share to “think globally and act locally” as environmental stewards of planet Earth has never been more timely or important.

This year is different.

With social distancing in full force, we cannot go outside in large groups. There are, however, several inventive ways to celebrate Earth. The Earth Day 2020 theme is “climate action,” and while we are not able to come together physically this year, technology is presenting some unique opportunities to show your love for the Earth virtually.

Because many of us are now homeschooling kids, Google has created 360-degree tours of 113 different national park sites, including monuments, historic sites, and shorelines.

By downloading the Earth Challenge 2020 app, you will help gather critical environmental data near your area, providing scientists and other “citizen scientists” with research to help maintain a cleaner planet. Users measure air quality and plastic pollution where they are and add each reading to a global database.

Happy Earth Day from Metro City Roofing.