88 years ago, on April 22, 1970, leaders, students, and citizens all across the country took a stand for the environment on the first ever Earth Day. Prior to this time, the state environment was not a concerning issue for most people. Industry in the United States was skyrocketing, but there were no legal restrictions or consequences for its detrimental environmental effects. With the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, the effects of pollution and pesticides on the environment and public health were brought to the attention of millions of readers. After the catastrophe of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, then Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, thought that America should have a national day focusing on the environmental protection and awareness: Earth Day. Nelson saw the success of the student anti-war movement against Vietnam, so he thought that using the same type of momentum would be the best way to push concerns for the environment onto the political radar.
And so the first ever Earth Day brought groups fighting against oil spills, factory pollution, freeways, habitat destruction, and wildlife extinction together into streets, parks, and auditoriums. In 1970 alone, Earth Day lead to the creation of Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
By 1990, Earth Day had become a global effort, bringing together 200 million people from across 141 countries who cared about making environmental issues an international concern. The 1990 Earth Day also heavily emphasized the importance of recycling and helped lead to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Every year, Earth Day is becoming bigger and more wide-reaching. In 2000, a drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa in honor of Earth Day, and hundreds of thousands of people gathered for a First Amendment Rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C. In 2010, climate change deniers were becoming more prevalent. Nonetheless, however, Earth Day 2010 launched A Billion Acts of Green, the world's largest environmental service project. A Billion Acts of Green is a tree-planting initiative that brought 250,000 people together to the National Mall for a Climate Change Rally. Aside from religious holidays, Earth Day is now the most observed celebration across the world. The popularity of Earth Day demonstrates its unparalleled significance, as people internationally are attempting to resolve the issues of climate change that increasingly pose threats to the Earth.
This year, Earth Day’s theme is End Plastic Pollution. Currently, the plastic everyone on a daily basis poisons and kills marine life, litters beaches and other habitats, and negatively affects human hormones. Plastic use is growing exponentially, as are its harmful effects on the environment. The goal of this theme is to change the public’s attitude toward plastic and the environment, hopefully catalyzing a movement to think greener. Everyone can help make this change and save the world by celebrating Earth Day locally and by participating in the Earth Day Network’s global initiatives.