Published: April 15, 2021 By

Earth day first began in 1970, as more people in the United States and across the globe began to become more aware of the environmental harm that humans have caused and continue to cause. Prior to the 1970’s, air and water pollution were the norm. Some of the newfound consciousness about environmental issues arose in part due to the publishing of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson which outlines some of the effects of pesticides such as DDT. It is immensely important to celebrate Earth day each year because it recognizes the harm humans are capable of causing while showing the massive amounts of support across the globe for protecting the Earth and the environment. This is especially important in relation to the climate crisis, in order to enact real change, our governments must be aware of the desire of their constituents to have environmental issues be at the forefront of policy.

How did Earth Day begin?

  • First Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970

  • The movement was backed by Senator Gaylord Nelson 

  • National and global awareness of environmental issues was growing 

    • Just a year before, the nation watched as the Cuyahoga river in Cleveland caught on fire 

    • Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had also been published in 1962 and had become very popular 

  • Earth Day originally began as an idea for teach-ins at colleges and universities to educate people about the environmental impacts of many of our practices 

  • These teach-ins mimicked the teach-ins that occurred about the Vietnam War

  • Although Senator Gaylord Nelson was the instigating force for Earth Day, it was largely coordinated by a Stanford University student Denis Hayes 

  • Earth Day was supposed to act as a means of getting environmental issues on the national policy agenda, and it was largely successful

  • The first Earth Day included 20 million people demonstrating in the name of the Earth!

What were the impacts of the first Earth Day?

  • Just one year after the first Earth Day, 25% of Americans believed it to be important to protect the environment.

  • In the years that followed the first Earth Day many national environmental policies were passed including:

    • The Clean Air Act 

    • The Water Quality Improvement Act 

    • The Endangered Species Act

    • The Toxic Substances Control Act

    • The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency was also established in 1970, shortly following the first Earth Day marches. 

  • Earth Day also continues to this day, every April 22nd, continuing to make an impact across the globe.

Why is Earth Day Important?

  • Earth Day allows for a day of education about environmental issues affecting our planet every year 

  • Demonstrations on Earth Day also help to signal to our representatives in government how important action on environmental issues is to us, their constituents. 

  • Earth Day allows us a day each year to reflect and remember the significance of the health of the planet and what we can all do to help ensure that health 

  • Earth Day has influenced major national policy in the past, and will only continue to do so

What can you do to celebrate your Earth Day to make a difference?

  • Join the movement during the 2021 demonstrations under the theme “Restore Our Earth

    • There will be events ranging from April 20-22, beginning with the global youth summit on the 20th 

    • April 21st will consist of Global Education Summit in an effort to educate the world on environmental issues, and emphasize how educators play a role in climate action 

    • On April 22nd, there will be a live online Earth Day event, beginning at 12pm ET. This will include workshops, panel discussions, and performances 

    • For more information, or to attend any of these events check out this website 

  • Limit your waste and carbon footprint on Earth Day! Celebrate our wonderful Earth by giving her a break for the day. Challenge yourself by doing one of the following: