Earth Day – The Environmental Movement

handEarth Day Is an annual event which is marked every 22nd of April. On this day, across the globe, events are held as a demonstration of support for environmental protection. The first Earth Day celebration was held in 1970, and till date – this event has witnessed global recognition – with over 192 countries partaking in its yearly celebration.

The origins of this symbolic day dates back to 1969, when renowned peace activist, John McConnell championed a motion to set aside a particular day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco. McConnell’s proposition, though accepted by the United Nations Secretary General U Thant, would later garner more momentum when United States Senator Gaylord Nelson championed the cause for the establishing of a particular day in which environmental issues within the United States would be identified and achievements in line with environmental challenges would be celebrated. This day was to be called “Earth Day”, and the date set aside for its commemoration was the 22nd day in April. With the assistance of Denis Hayes, the Earth Day celebration was later spread to various parts of the globe, and by 1990 over 140 nations had become active partakers in the Earth Day commemoration.

Coining of the name “Earth Day”

Nelson was later quoted as stating that the Earth Day moniker one which was ideally and logically proposed by a number of close friends and associates. Amongst these friends was Julian Koenig – a notable New York advertising executive at that time. Koenig was also a member of Nelson’s organizing committees, and while Nelson still referred to his proposal as “National Environment Teach-In”, the term “Earth Day” was preferred by the press, and was generally used in communiqués concerning its activities. There isn’t an outright proclamation as to the originator of the name, but what was clearly obvious was the unanimous public acceptance for the name.

Earth Day in the 80s and 1990s

Riding on their ability to gather and mobilize millions of people from across 141 nations, and bringing to the fore global awareness on issues relating to our environment, organizers of the event were able to impact tremendously towards enhancing recycling efforts across the globe. Their activities also paved the way for the United Nations Earth Summit which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. By now, the events had garnered multimillion-dollar budgets, better marketing tools, and greater access to public awareness via television and radio. As at that time, Senator Nelson was given due recognition as being instrumental towards the creation of the Earth Day, and In 1995 he was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest honor given to civilians in the United States) – by President Bill Clinton.

Another notable Earth Day activity within this period was the peace climb. Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest along with mountaineers from the Soviet Union and China had roped together to climb a ascend the Mt. Everest. The group made a daring effort at cleaning up the litter which had been left behind by previous climbing expeditions. They were able to clean up in excess of two tons of trash.

Earth Day at the turn of the century

The turn of the century marked the first time (in Earth Day 2000) that the internet was utilized as a primary organizing tool. This endeavor surmounted to invaluable worldwide recognition for the goals and objectives of the movement. The event was able to enlist over 5000 international environmental groups – thus, bring the message of sustainable environmental practices to millions of people across 183 countries. Headlining the Earth Day 200 event in the United States was actor – Leonardo DiCaprio.

The turn of the century saw a reinvigorated campaign centered on the push for clean energy, and highlighting the impacts of global warming on our planet. This new approach to awareness is a mixed blend of old-school (1979) feistiness and the grassroots activism of the 90s. It showcased creativity in the manner and approach with which information was decimated, and awareness was garnered. From the use of the internet in Europe and the United States, to the engagement of talking drum chains – which traveled between villages in places like Gabon, Africa; the newly resuscitated 20th century Earth Day activists were bent on stimulating the populace with essential environmental data and information – thus, urging Earth’s citizens to send a loud and clear message to world leaders – that a quick and decisive stance on the utilization of clean energy needed to be reached.

Earth Day 2010 and beyond

Earth Day 2010 bore a striking similarity to that of 1970 in the sense that it came at a time when the world’s environmental community was faced with dire challenges. Challenges from lobbyists for oil companies, reticent politicians, deniers of climate change, a divided environmental community and a seemingly disinterested public all contributory factors to a strong narrative that saw the desire for progress and change overshadowed.

Despite these challenges, the integral core of the Earth Day network still remains strong in both will and resolve, they form an essential focal point to enable people have their commitment demonstrated. These are manifest in the Climate Rally ate the National Mall – where over 200,000 were in attendance. Organizers were able to amass over 40 million environmental service actions towards its 2012 goal of “A Billion Acts of Green”. Also, with the help of Avatar director James Cameron, they were able to launch an international 1-million tree planting initiative. Interestingly, in spite of numerous challenges from the opposition, the movement was still able to triple its online base.

As the ravaging effects of climate change become more evident in our daily lives, the need for a clean environment cannot be overemphasized. The prospect of an eco-friendly society where emphasis is laid on sustainable and renewable energy solutions is not far-fetched. The efforts of the Earth Day movements can be felt through the technology at your fingertips to the clamoring of the grassroots – urging our leaders to implement active measures towards sustaining our environment for generations to come.



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