April is a time for change–gardens are planted, spring cleaning is launched, and, in my neck of the woods, graduates prepare for commencement. With change in the air, Earth Day lands gracefully on April 22nd each year, a perfect time for each one of us to reflect on our earthly behavior. While you’re out planting a tree, picking up litter, or hiking this Earth Day, try to also take the time to consider the roots of the holiday itself:
- Wisconsin former governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded the first Earth Day on April 22nd, 1970. Modeling the holiday after student protest and anti-Vietnam demonstrations, Nelson hoped for grassroots initiatives and managed to rally millions to take action in their local cities.
- The name “Earth Day” was almost called the “National Environment Teach-in” due to Nelson’s desire for the demonstration-like holiday. However, Nelson’s coordinator likened the name to “birthday” and ultimately decided to publish Earth Day in a press release. The name caught on like wildfire.
- The first Earth Day and its associated public pressure is widely recognized as one of the catalysts that set the stage for programs under the Environmental Protection Agency and many laws including the Clean Water Act, the Clear Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
- On Earth Day in 2000, a new invention called the internet brought together thousands of environmental organizations and grassroots activists, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio, to rally for climate action in Washington, DC.
- The United Nations announced in 2009 that April 22nd is International Mother Earth Day, an annual event that recognizes the world’s responsibility to keep our planet safe from environmental damage. This year’s theme is Trees for the Earth.
- Today, Earth Day today is celebrated by two hundred million people in over one hundred countries worldwide. 2016 will be the 46th Earth Day celebration.
- This year’s Earth Day the Paris Climate Agreement will be ratified in New York City. Over 150 of the decision makers who met from all over the world at the Conference of the Parties this last December (COP21) will be at the UN headquarters to sign the agreement. Let us hope this allows us to enjoy many future Earth Days to come.
Earth Day has been a time-honored tradition for decades and most likely will be for many to come. Let Earth Day be a time for reflection and activism. Happy Earth Day!