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Earth Day has been celebrated every year on the 22nd of April since 1970. The day is celebrated every year to show support for environmental protection and conservation. Today, Earth Day hosts a wide range of programs and events coordinated by people worldwide- 1 billion people from over 193 countries.
The Earth Day that occurred on the 22nd of April 2022 marked the 52nd year of Earth Day. It is hard to imagine Earth Day before 1970; communities paid little or no attention to the proper disposal of waste. Most industrial wastes were disposed of in landfills, held on-site, burned, or discharged into surface waters with little or no treatment, which was perfectly legal. Any laws or regulations did not protect our environment until 1970 – until Earth Day. But how did Earth Day come to be?
Before 1970, Americans were inhaling large amounts of leaded gas through automobiles. Industries emitted dangerous pollutants and particles, ignoring their impacts and without fear from the media or authorities. Air pollution was regarded as the smell of prosperity, and development, as industrialization grew. According to research, pollution in America in the 1970s was five times worse than today.
People were unaware of this increasing development’s impact on human and planetary health. Authorities ignored environmental concerns and threats completely. This was until the environmental movement in 1970.
Rachel Carson’s New York Bestseller, Silent Spring, published in 1962, set the stage for change concerning environmental awareness and protection. Silent Spring sold over 500,000 copies in around 24 countries, raising awareness and concerns for all living organisms, nature, and undeniable links between health and pollution.
On the 22nd of April 1970, nearly 20 million Americans protested against environmental destruction. The country had already experienced several devastating impacts of oil spills. Numerous Americans have also seen astronauts’ first photographs of the Earth. The beautiful Earth from space looked bleak and barren.
A junior Senator from Wisconsin, Senator Gaylord Nelson was always concerned about environmental destruction in the United States. In January 1969, America witnessed the destructive effects of the Santa Barbra oil spill in California. In response, a student anti-war movement emerged.
Inspired by this movement, Senator Nelson wanted to use the energy of the student anti-war protests with the emerging public awareness about water and air pollution. Senator Nelson then announced to the media the idea for a teach-in on college campuses, with Pete McCloskey, a Republican Congressman, as his co-chair.
Senator Nelson and McCloskey recruited a young activist, Denis Hayes, to organize the teach-ins and chose the 22nd of April (a weekday) to increase student participation. Hayes managed to promote events across the United States, with a lot of efforts pouring in. The whole effort was named Earth Day, it gained popularity and large-scale media attention.
Earth Day inspired 10 percent of the population in the United States to go out on the streets and protest against the devastating impacts of 150 years of industrialization and development. Hundreds of colleges and universities organized protests against the destruction of the environment.
As the years went by, some environmental leaders approached Hayes to organize more campaigns and events to save the planet. During the 1990s, Earth Day went global, inspiring 200 million people in around 141 countries. It raised several environmental issues worldwide.
As the 21st century approached, more campaigns were organized, focusing on clean energy and mitigating global warming. Earth Day 2000 witnessed the efforts of 5,000 environmental groups in 184 countries.
Earth Day 2010 aimed to tackle the skepticism of climate change deniers, ignorant public, disinterested world leaders, and policymakers with the collective power of international environmental activism.
Today, Earth Day continues to be celebrated worldwide, with over a billion people participating every year to change human actions and create better policies and regulations. Currently, the fight continues as the world faces increasing impacts of climate change. Never has Earth Day been so important as it is today.