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What's Earth Day, Anyway
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What's Earth Day, Anyway?

by
Apr 22nd, 2016

By this point, Earth Day is part of the national lexicon. While you’ve almost certainly heard of it, how much do you know about the event, its purpose, its origins, and how you can act to further its aims if you sympathize with its mission?

Inaugural Earth Day: March 21 and April 22, 1970

In the fall of 1969, peace activist John McConnell proposed the designation of a day to honor the Earth and the aim and concept of sustainable peace around the globe. March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, was selected as the date of the first event. On April 22, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson organized an environmental teach-in, giving Earth Day a distinct environmental focus. Inaugural events took place across the country, with New York City and Philadelphia holding the largest gatherings.

Senator Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work on the event and is today widely considered to be the founder of Earth Day. While most countries participating in the inaugural day celebrated on March 21, 1970, April 22 is the date that has stuck and on which Earth Day is universally observed.

Celebrating 20 Years of Earth Day with a Bang

In 1970, Earth Day organizers and collaborators had little money and few resources to mobilize support for their fledgling cause. Fast forward 20 years to 1990, and the event had access to television and radio, more effective marketing tools, and deep pockets. The 1990 celebration was sponsored by the Earth Day 20 Foundation and Earth Day 1990. Highlights included a call with a team of climbers atop Mount Everest and the themed single “Tomorrow’s World.” More than 200 million people participated in events in 141 countries, and the event paved the way for 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Earth Day Since 1990

Another blockbuster event took place in 2000, under political organizer Kelly Evans. More than 5,000 environmental groups outside the United States held cleanups, forums, parades, and other gatherings. In Washington, D.C., more than 400,000 people braved chilly rain to watch prominent environmentalist Leonardo Dicaprio host the capital’s main event on the National Mall.

Another major year was in 2007, with more people actively participating in the event than in any preceding year. An estimated one billion people around the globe participated in some capacity.

In 2012, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) returned human overpopulation to the forefront of the agenda.

This year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) proposed Paris Agreement is expected to be signed by more than 120 countries, including China and the United States. The monumental treaty is intended to mitigate the effects of greenhouse gases and keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 °C above pre-industrial averages.

How You Can Observe Earth Day

There are countless ways to celebrate, honor, and observe the day with others in your community. Most major cities have some sort of march, parade, or festival featuring live music and speeches by celebrities and politicians. Organized community cleanups, tree planting ceremonies, and similar projects offer opportunities to contribute in a group setting. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regionally organized lists of events and volunteer opportunities posted on its website. Another way to observe the day is to purchase a carbon offset covering the dirty energy you use.

Hundreds of millions of people observe Earth Day by adopting eco-friendly practices, some temporary and others permanent. You can make it your mission to use as little dirty energy as possible on April 22, cycling to work instead of driving, shortening the length of your morning shower, and picking up any recyclables and trash you pass throughout the day. Planting an herb garden on your apartment patio or balcony is another way to participate.

Since its inception, Earth Day has helped raise awareness and support for a host of environmental-related causes, including recycling, carbon emissions, and clean energy. If you care about the environment and want to contribute to the eco-friendly fervor that reigns strong each year on April 22, make this Earth Day meaningful by doing something that’s both fun and makes an impact.

How will you spend this Earth Day? Leave a comment featuring any fun and creative ideas you have.

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View All Posts by Jason Ernst
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