Investigation: How Did Earth Day Begin?

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"Earth - Day and night simulations" by Deftroy is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Audrey Bortner, Writer

Earth Day this year is on Tuesday, April 22, and it will be the holiday’s 50th anniversary!

Unfortunately, we will all still be in quarantine, mostly enjoying the earth through our windows. But my question today is, how did Earth Day become a holiday?

According to EarthDay, the holiday was created in 1970 in the US to raise awareness about how we need to take care of the planet and reduce pollution. In the decades before 1970, automobiles and factories produced a lot of air pollution and not many people during the time were aware of how it was harmful to the earth and humans.

In 1962 Rachel Carson released her book Silent Spring, which helped educate people on the issue. More than 500,000 copies of the book were sold in various countries. 

Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was a junior senator from Wisconsin, was concerned about the climate in the US. He, Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, and activist Denis Hayes all came together to come up with the idea of Earth Day and promote it.

They started out by having Denis Hayes do college/university teach-ins on April 22, which was between Spring Break and final exams, so that more students would participate. Later they named it Earth Day and got many more Americans involved.

Around 10% of the American population at the time protested against 150 years of industrial development. Thanks to the protests, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created that same year, and the National Environmental Education Act was passed as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. Two years later the Clean Water Act was passed as well. So the first Earth Day was a total success!

You can read more at EarthDay.org.

So on Tuesday, April 22, remember to look out your window and appreciate your earth at a safe distance from other humans. And as always, work to reduce your CO2 emissions and plastic waste!

Happy Earth Day!