April 22, is officially recognized throughout the United States as Earth Day. But are you aware of how this celebration came about? In the late 1960's there was a growing concern about the state and future of our planet. After several environmental catastrophes such as The Santa Barbara oil spill and the Cuyahoga River fires of 1969 it became clear that we needed to take a much more active approach in our planet's stewardship. Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from the state of Wisconsin, was responsible for establishing the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Coincidentally, this was also the time of the Vietnam War protests across the country. Gaylord organized "teach - in" on college campuses along with congressman Pete McCloskey and Denis Hayes, a political activist. They chose the date of April 22 because it fell after Spring Break and before Final Exams. The first Earth Day zeroed in on the slow but steady deterioration of our environment. It produced an awareness of the mindless dissipation of our resources. This finally prompted Congress to pass major initiatives that would become the nation's first environmental laws. Some examples included the National Environmental Education Act, The Occupational Safety and Health Act, The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.
By the 1990's, Earth Day became global, involving 200 million people in 141 countries. In 1992, the first Earth Summit was hosted in Rio de Janeiro, and in 1995, Nelson was awarded
the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.
In 2020, Earth Day marked its fiftieth anniversary. As a matter of fact, in spite of the pandemic, more than 100 million people from 192 countries participated. Mayors, national governments, and many others made commitments on such issues as climate literacy, plastics and renewable energy. There were virtual forums on climate change, and parents as well as teachers began educating students about global environmental issues. Millions of trees were planted as well. The Earth Day Network, EDN, was established and began to broadcast around the globe. More than 2 million people, using avatars participated in a digital march on the ellipsis of the White House.
Earth Day shows no signs of slowing down. More than a billion people participated in last year's celebration. Now, more than ever, we need to preserve and protect the health of our planet as well as the health of our families. Businesses, governments and citizens must cooperate in a partnership to save Mother Earth!