The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.
The idea came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.
As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.
Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. "It was a gamble," Gaylord recalled, "but it worked."
Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.
- Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to watch a TV for three hours - it's equivalent to half a gallon of gasoline.
- Earth Day is a relatively new holiday and was first celebrated on April 22 in 1970. More than 20 million Americans participated in this first Earth Day celebration
- Earth Day was founded by a senator of Wisconsin and the day is credited for creating the environmentalism movement.
- April 22 is the first official day of Spring in the Northern hemisphere and of Fall in the Southern hemisphere and was chosen to be Earth Day for this reason.
- Never underestimate the importance of recycling: if every newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250,000,000 trees each year. Unfortunately only 27% of all American newspapers are recycled.
- More than 20,000,000 Hershey's Kisses are wrapped each day, using 133 square miles of tinfoil. All that foil is recyclable, but not many people realize it.
- Only 11% of the earth's surface is used to grow food.
- The world's first national park was started in 1872 at Yellowstone National Park in the US.
- The first major international conference on environmental issues was held in Sweden in 1972 and was sponsored by the United Nations.
- The first wildlife refuge was formed on Pelican Island Florida in 1903.
- The patron Saint of ecologists is St. Francis and the first proclamation of Earth Day was made by the mayor of San Francisco in 1970.
- A highlight of the annual Earth Day ceremony at the United Nations is the ringing of the Peace Bell that was given to the UN by Japan. It is made from coins given by school children to further peace on our planet.
HAPPY EARTH DAY!