8 things to know about Earth Day
It's Earth Day’s 51st birthday! The first Earth Day held April 22, 1970 was marked by peaceful demonstrations by some 20 million Americans in support of environmental protection and reform. It sparked the political change needed to create the EPA and the passage of landmark legislation including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Act.
In the five decades since it was first celebrated in parks, on streets and college campuses across the U.S., Earth Day has become a global event feted with festivities and events in more than 192 countries.
With the global COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, this year's celebration will again be digital with participants invited to come together for three days of climate action to learn how we can Restore Our Earth. For those who can’t wait for Earth Day, check out the 51 ways you can help today. Here are eight more things to know about Earth Day.
1. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in the United States. In recognition of his hard work, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in 1995.
2. But Nelson wasn’t the only one with the idea. A year earlier, peace activist John McConnell had pitched a plan to honor the Earth and “give peace a chance” at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. McConnell proposed the celebration for March 21, 1970 - the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. A month after that, Nelson’s Earth Day began as an environmental teach-in.
3. Environmental Advocate Denis Allen Hayes, the coordinator for the first Earth Day and founder of the Earth Day Network, made the annual celebration global in 1990. For his efforts, Hayes earned the Jefferson Awards Medal for Outstanding Public Service and was named “Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine in 1999.
4. On the first Earth Day in the U.S., 2,000 colleges and universities participated, along with 10,000 primary and secondary schools. Today, many communities and schools expand the holiday to an Earth Week celebration.
5. Popular Earth Day activities include planting trees, picking up litter along roadways and waterways, cleaning up parks and signing petitions for a better environment and better planet.
6. By 2010, Earth Day’s 40th anniversary, more than 1 billion people were celebrating Earth Day worldwide. Some remarkable international Earth Day efforts include: 100,000 people riding bikes in China to reduce CO2 emissions and save fuel; the planting of 28 million trees in Afghanistan by the Earth Day Network; and in Panama, planting and maintaining 100 endangered orchids to prevent their extinction.
7. Last year’s theme was climate action and due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Earth Day Network asked people to "join in a global digital mobilization that drives actions big and small, gives diverse voices a platform and demands bold action for people and the planet." During the 24 hours of Earth Day, the digital landscape was filled with global conversations, calls to action, performances, and video teach-ins.
8. This year’s Earth Day theme Restore Our Earth will be digital again and held over three days, April 20-22. The event kicks off April 20 with the global youth climate summit led by Earth Uprising, in collaboration with My Future My Voice, OneMillionOfUs and hundreds of youth climate activists. On April 21, Education International will lead the “Teach for the Planet: Global Education Summit.” Wrapping up events on Earth Day, April 22, EARTHDAY.ORG will produce its second Earth Day Live digital event; a multi-hour multi-channel livestream including segments taking place around the world starting at noon Eastern Time. Workshops, panel discussions, and special performances will focus on Earth Day’s Restore Our Earth theme, which examines natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. For more on 2021 Earth Day events visit https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2021/