Earth Day 2021: History and Fun Facts About the International Holiday

by Madison Miller

In many ways, every single day is an Earth Day. However, every year on April 22 we give special attention and appreciation for nature and the life present on planet Earth.

As the only planet we can currently live on, there’s a lot to be thankful for in regard to Earth.

From outdoor activities to national park events to sustainability to activism, there’s a lot on the agenda for today. Every year all of planet Earth unite with a renewed urgency to protect against climate change and other growing concerns. As of this morning, the Climate Clock website states that there are about six years and 253 days before climate change is irreversible.

How did Earth Day come to be and how do we celebrate the international holiday every year?

History of Earth Day

Many of the initiatives that are a part of Earth Day are mobilized for the rest of the year as well. However, the unified holiday brings even more people to action.

According to the Earth Day website, each year on Earth Day there are more than 1 billion people mobilizing for environmental action. The U.S. isn’t alone in the celebration, either. More than 190 other countries also recognize and celebrate on April 22.

The very first Earth Day was in 1970. It came right as the public was starting to recognize the need for environmental protection and activism. The modern environmental movement started to gain traction in the 1960s. It started with concerns regarding the growing level of air and water pollution. Then it spread to include issues like landscape and human-driven climate change.

It wasn’t until this point in history that people truly started to recognize the faults and concerns that come from things like pollution.

The book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, which came out in 1962, was a monumental part of the environmental awareness movement. It sold over 500,000 copies in 24 different countries. It started to raise awareness for environmental protection and the kind of public health risks that come from pollution.

Senator Gaylor Nelson

While the public was gaining awareness, the government was starting to shift its attention as well.

Nelson was a junior senator from Wisconsin. He had been concerned about the state of the environment and began to spearhead the movement. It was his idea to mix together the anti-war protests from students with the growing understanding of air and water pollution.

He had the idea for teach-in lessons on campuses and recruited Congressman Pete McCloskey as well. They chose a young activist, Denis Hayes, to speak on the matter on college campuses. What day did they happen to choose?

Nelson and McCloskey chose April 22 because it was between Spring Break and the upcoming final examinations. While it started small, it was soon expanded to other organizations and areas. This is when the name Earth Day came into the picture.

Nelson’s idea to start with college students was an intelligent one. Suddenly, there were close to 20 million Americans on the streets demonstrating the impacts of human-driven environmental damage. Change and awareness are defining parts of the 1960s and 1970s.

Nelson was also driven to action after witnessing the massive oil spill that happened in Santa Barbara, California in January of 1969. The Earth Day movement became a global event in 1990 and mobilized 200 million people. During the 1990 campaign, recycling sees a considerable boost as well.

According to ABC News, the goal was to get each city involved by addressing specific issues their regions were battling. This would cause everyone to unite over key issues. Newspapers, magazines, and other efforts helped spread awareness. By the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act all became leading initiatives.

Earth Day Today

Today marks the 51st anniversary of Earth Day.

According to Financial Express, this year is especially important. Many environmentalists have linked the coronavirus to the increased and gradual degradation of the planet. The virus has forced more single-use products and other plastic products that end up in landfills.

A part of the goal today is to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theme is “Restore Our Earth.” It will focus on new green and pollution-free tech that is entering the picture slowly. There are seven Earth-related meetings taking place today. One of which is the Leaders’ Summit on Climate with President Joe Biden as the virtual host.

As an individual, there are plenty of local events and projects going on as well.