The History of Earth Day

Earth Day came to be known for the first time in 1970 when the world was torn by political conflicts. There were many political actions being taken which gradually led to the destruction of forests and thereby affecting the balance of the ecosystem. There were many naturists and environmentalists who fought to save the Mother Earth from many endangering decisions or outcomes of conflicts due to politics.


But, it was only on April 22, 1970 that people gathered together and raised their voice against the unlikely events and thereby leading to the first Earth Day celebration. But, if we just go back in the years, we can understand that the seed of Earth Day was sown a number of years earlier, when the issue of saving nature had risen above the threshold with scientists and environmentalists were struck in mind by the air and water pollution that had occurred as a result of World War 2. It was destroying the beautiful wild nature.

It was during the era of Gaylord Nelson that the protection of environment was first proposed with a national priority.  It was he who founded the Earth Day which we observe today throughout the world. The idea for Earth Day was formed way back in 1962 though it was first implemented only in 1970. Gaylord was initially successful in convincing the then President of America Kennedy to go on a national “conservation tour”. Nelson also introduced a ban on both the selling and usage of DDT in 1963. But, he was not supported by even a single member of the Congress.


Gaylord was inspired by many of the small events organized by local organizations in promoting environmental issues among the citizens. He then came to a decision in 1969 that a single day which is meant for protecting the nature would be a perfect way to stop pollution and put down deforestation to a considerable level.

Gaylord, speaking at a conference in 1969 at Seattle proposed that there would be a special day in the spring of 1970 meant especially for the demonstration on behalf of environmental concerns. His words had inspired a lot and people literally waited till that day in 1970 when they could join in their voices to counter the ever growing environmental issues. He got a huge response with people dropping in telegrams, letters and telephone inquiries from all over the country.

People finally had a forum to share their concern about the land, rivers, lakes and air. The final date of the Earth Day was announced through a full-page advertisement published by Gaylord in The New York Times in January 1970. The date was chosen with great intention of getting the student power in supporting the day where people could jointly voice against the illegal deterioration of the environment. The date, April 22 was chosen because it had no clashes with holidays and the weather was warm enough.

The first Earth Day ~ April 22, 1970, NYC

The first Earth Day had witnessed participants from around two thousand colleges and universities and ten thousand primary and secondary schools. Also, hundreds of participants from various communities across the United States had taken part in the celebration. In short, the event witnessed around twenty million Americans to the sunshine on the day to demonstrate peacefully their concern towards the environment. The event was organized by Denis Hayes who even today chairs the Earth Day every year.

The Earth Day is now observed in over 190 countries with Earth Day Network coordinating the event. It is also considered as the largest secular holiday in the whole world and more than a billion people celebrate the event every year. The main intention behind celebrating this auspicious day is to bring in a change in the behavior of the human beings and provoke some policy changes thus thereby saving the forests and environment.

When the news had broke out regarding the Earth Day after Gaylord announcing it during the conference, a group of students gathered at Columbia University so that they could listen to Denis Hayes, the person who had then organized the Earth Day talk about his ideas and plans for the Earth Day. Many had then decided to take this event a little further and the New York group which was on the front geared up the event making it a national movement. The then Mayor John Lindsay’s offices were being used for the correspondence by the coordinators. The mayor also made the Central Park available to celebrate this event. News channels like BBC and CNN had provided their best reporters to cover the world’s largest gathering to save the Mother Earth. And that gathering was a milestone in the history and is now being celebrated by every modern environmentalists.


During the same time, there were also preparations going on in Philadelphia to host an event on the same day, i.e., April 22 by environmentalist Ira Einhorn. The event witness a motivational speech delivered by the U.S Senator Edmund Muskie in Fairmount Park. Many celebrities had been part of this memorable event and voiced in their concerns towards the planet on which we all are living from millions of years.

The Earth Day didn’t just stop there but, it was all set to be organized on local levels in cities and counties too. Gaylord had set up an independent organization called as Environmental Teach-In Inc., to provide support for this wonderful event. The organization was led by Denis Hayes and handled the flood of requests and also took care of other duties that were pending to be completed to make the event big and successful. The idea was later thought to be an inspiring one and kept people investing their time and precious moments in saving the nature and forests.

Finally, after all the hurdles and plans being encountered by Gaylord and others, the Earth Day event did prove to be a very successful one with people from all walks of life taking part in it. The event was covered by newspapers throughout the world making it a front-page lead! For many, Earth Day did turn out to be a teaching lesson and a very important day of their lives, especially when they realized the reckless consumption of nature they had been making before.



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