Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
|Significance||support for environmental protection|
|Next time||22 April 2018|
On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature's equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations.
Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. In 2017, the March for Science occurred on Earth day (April 22, 2017) and will be followed by the People's Climate Mobilization (April 29, 2017).
Santa Barbara Oil Blowout, 1969
On January 28th, 1969, a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out. More than three million gallons of oil spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. As a reaction to this natural disaster, activists were mobilized to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Among the proponents of Earth Day were the people in the front lines of fighting this disaster, Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, and Bud Bottoms, founder of Get Oil Out. 
Earth Day 1970
The first Earth Day celebrations took place in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform." It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year." Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action to change human behavior and provoke policy changes.
New York City
In the winter of 1969–1970, a group of students met at Columbia University to hear Denis Hayes talk about his plans for Earth Day. Among the group were Fred Kent, Pete Grannis, and Kristin and William Hubbard. This group agreed to head up the New York City activities within the national movement. Fred Kent took the lead in renting an office and recruiting volunteers. "The big break came when Mayor Lindsay agreed to shut down Fifth Avenue for the event. A giant cheer went up in the office on that day," according to Kristin Hubbard (now Kristin Alexandre). 'From that time on we used Mayor Lindsay's offices and even his staff. I was Speaker Coordinator but had tremendous help from Lindsay staffer Judith Crichton."
In addition to shutting down Fifth Avenue, Mayor John Lindsay made Central Park available for Earth Day. In Union Square, New York Times estimated crowds of up to 20,000 people at any given time and, perhaps, as many as over 100,000 over the course of the day. Since Manhattan was also the home of NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek, it provided the best possible anchor for national coverage from their reporters throughout the country.
U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie was the keynote speaker on Earth Day in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Other notable attendees included consumer protection activist and presidential candidate Ralph Nader; Landscape Architect Ian McHarg; Nobel prize-winning Harvard Biochemist, George Wald; U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Hugh Scott; and poet, Allen Ginsberg.
Earth Day 1990
Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage, Earth Day activities in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Unlike the first Earth Day in 1970, this 20th Anniversary was waged with stronger marketing tools, greater access to television and radio, and multimillion-dollar budgets.
Two separate groups formed to sponsor Earth Day events in 1990: The Earth Day 20 Foundation, assembled by Edward Furia (Project Director of Earth Week in 1970), and Earth Day 1990, assembled by Denis Hayes (National Coordinator for Earth Day 1970). Senator Gaylord Nelson, the original founder of Earth Day, was honorary chairman for both groups. The two did not combine forces over disagreements about leadership of combined organization and incompatible structures and strategies. Among the disagreements, key Earth Day 20 Foundation organizers were critical of Earth Day 1990 for including on their board Hewlett-Packard, a company that at the time was the second-biggest emitter of chlorofluorocarbons in Silicon Valley and refused to switch to alternative solvents. In terms of marketing, Earth Day 20 had a grassroots approach to organizing and relied largely on locally based groups like the National Toxics Campaign, a Boston-based coalition of 1,000 local groups concerned with industrial pollution. Earth Day 1990 employed strategies including focus group testing, direct mail fund raising, and email marketing.
The Earth Day 20 Foundation highlighted its April 22 activities in George, Washington, near the Columbia River with a live satellite phone call with members of the historic Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb who called from their base camp on Mount Everest to pledge their support for world peace and attention to environmental issues. The Earth Day 20 International Peace Climb was led by Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest (many years earlier), and marked the first time in history that mountaineers from the United States, Soviet Union, and China had roped together to climb a mountain, let alone Mt. Everest. The group also collected more than two tons of trash (transported down the mountain by support groups along the way) that was left behind on Mount Everest from previous climbing expeditions. The master of ceremonies for the Columbia Gorge event was the TV star, John Ratzenberger, from "Cheers", and the headlining musician was the "Father of Rock and Roll," Chuck Berry.
Warner Bros. Records released an Earth Day-themed single in 1990 entitled "Tomorrow's World", written by Kix Brooks (who would later become one-half of Brooks & Dunn) and Pam Tillis. The song featured vocals from Lynn Anderson, Butch Baker, Shane Barmby, Billy Hill, Suzy Bogguss, Kix Brooks, T. Graham Brown, The Burch Sisters, Holly Dunn, Foster & Lloyd, Vince Gill, William Lee Golden, Highway 101, Shelby Lynne, Johnny Rodriguez, Dan Seals, Les Taylor, Pam Tillis, Mac Wiseman, and Kevin Welch. It charted at number 74 on the Hot Country Songs chart dated May 5, 1990.
Earth Day 2000
Earth Day 2000 combined the ambitious spirit of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. This was the first year that Earth Day used the Internet as its principal organizing tool, and it proved invaluable nationally and internationally. Kelly Evans, a professional political organizer, served as executive director of the 2000 campaign. The event ultimately enlisted more than 5,000 environmental groups outside the United States, reaching hundreds of millions of people in a record 183 countries. Leonardo DiCaprio was the official host for the event, and about 400,000 participants stood in the cold rain during the course of the day.
Subsequent Earth Day events
To turn Earth Day into a sustainable annual event rather than one that occurred every 10 years, Nelson and Bruce Anderson, New Hampshire's lead organizers in 1990, formed Earth Day USA. Building on the momentum created by thousands of community organizers around the world, Earth Day USA coordinated the next five Earth Day celebrations through 1995, including the launch of EarthDay.org. Following the 25th Anniversary in 1995, the coordination baton was handed to Earth Day Network.
As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focusing on global warming and pushing for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 came around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.
Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with many people participating in the activities in thousands of places including Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.
On 2012 Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) group brings back Earth Day to human overpopulation as the main concern. Earth day founder Gaylord Nelson stated that he was disappointed in followers for neglecting overpopulation. It is also important for students and young adults to become involved towards this issue and become engaged with the environmental issues happening now.
For Earth Day 2017, the Earth Day Network created four toolkits to aid organizations wanting to hold teach-ins to celebrate the theme "Environmental and Climate Literacy." The four toolkits are:
- Earth Day Action Toolkit: Educating and Activating Communities for Change
- Environmental Teach-in Toolkit
- Global Day of Conversation Toolkit for Local Governments
- MobilizeU: Campus Teach-in Toolkit
The Earth Day name
According to Nelson, the moniker "Earth Day" was "an obvious and logical name" suggested by "a number of people" in the fall of 1969, including, he writes, both "a friend of mine who had been in the field of public relations" and "a New York advertising executive," Julian Koenig. Koenig, who had been on Nelson's organizing committee in 1969, has said that the idea came to him by the coincidence of his birthday with the day selected, April 22; "Earth Day" rhyming with "birthday," the connection seemed natural. Other names circulated during preparations—Nelson himself continued to call it the National Environment Teach-In, but national coordinator Denis Hayes used the term Earth Day in his communications and press coverage of the event was "practically unanimous" in its use of "Earth Day," so the name stuck. The introduction of the name "Earth Day" was also claimed by John McConnell (see "Equinox Earth Day," below).
Earth Day Canada
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The first Canadian Earth Day was held on Thursday, September 11, 1980, and was organized by Paul D. Tinari, then a graduate student in Engineering Physics/Solar Engineering at Queen's University. Flora MacDonald, then MP for Kingston and the Islands and former Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, officially opened Earth Day Week on September 6, 1980 with a ceremonial tree planting and encouraged MPs and MPPs across the country to declare a cross-Canada annual Earth Day. The principal activities taking place on the first Earth Day included educational lectures given by experts in various environmental fields, garbage and litter pick-up by students along city roads and highways as well as tree plantings to replace the trees killed by Dutch Elm Disease.
Earth Day Canada (EDC) is a national environmental charity founded in 1990 that provides Canadians with practical knowledge, tools, and simple easy-to-accomplish actions to support a healthier environment through EDC's year-round and award-winning programs.
Education: EcoKids supports teachers and students, grades K-8, with free educational resources, curriculum-linked lesson plans including ESL and FSL, and homework help and games for students. EcoMentors offers youth the training and resources they need to facilitate local environmental education workshops with their peers and other young Canadians.
Action: EDC's challenges, contests and campaigns promote practical, culturally relevant and cost-effective solutions to help individual Canadians support a healthier environment. EDC also encourages action by supporting individuals and community groups in the organization and delivery of local Earth Day (April 22) events.
Recognition and Financial Support: Toyota Earth Day Scholarship Program recognizes tomorrow's environmental leaders providing twenty $5 000 scholarships to graduating high school students going on to post-secondary education in the discipline of their choice. The Hometown Heroes Award Program recognizes environmental leaders at the community level with an individual and a group award (each with a cash-prize of $10 000), and business leaders with a small business award. Earth Day Canada's Community Environment Fund funds sustainable community projects in Ontario providing grants of up to $20 000 to schools and not-for-profit organizations.
The Diversity Engagement and Inclusion Initiative helps the environmental sector to better communicate with, engage and activate Canada's diverse social and cultural communities. The Employee Engagement program works with employers to achieve business and sustainability goals through inclusion of best practices.
History of the Equinox Earth Day (March 20)
The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy is that point in time (not a whole day) when the Sun is directly above the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. In most cultures, the equinoxes and solstices are considered to start or separate the seasons.
John McConnell first introduced the idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day" at the 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. Celebrations were held in various cities, such as San Francisco and in Davis, California with a multi-day street party. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell's global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:
United Nations secretary-general Kurt Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies on the March equinox in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox (the United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22 global event). Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:
"Earth Day is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.
Earth Day draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate."
At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe Earth Day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, which was donated by Japan to the United Nations. Over the years, celebrations have occurred in various places worldwide at the same time as the UN celebration. On March 20, 2008, in addition to the ceremony at the United Nations, ceremonies were held in New Zealand, and bells were sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo, and many other locations. The equinox Earth Day at the UN is organized by the Earth Society Foundation.
Earth Day ringing the peace bell is celebrated around the world in many towns, ringing the Peace Bell in Vienna, Berlin, and elsewhere. A memorable event took place at the UN in Geneva, celebrating a Minute for Peace ringing the Japanese Shinagawa Peace Bell with the help of the Geneva Friendship Association and the Global Youth Foundation, directly after in deep mourning about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe 10 days before.
Beside the Spring Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere, the observance of the Spring Equinox for the Southern Hemisphere in September is of equal importance. The International Day of Peace is celebrated on the 21st September, and can thus be considered to accord with the original intentions of John McConnell, U Thant and others.
April 22 observances
Growing eco-activism before Earth Day 1970
In 1968, Morton Hilbert and the U.S. Public Health Service organized the Human Ecology Symposium, an environmental conference for students to hear from scientists about the effects of environmental degradation on human health. This was the beginning of Earth Day. For the next two years, Hilbert and students worked to plan the first Earth Day. In April 1970—along with a federal proclamation from U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson—the first Earth Day was held.
Project Survival, an early environmentalism-awareness education event, was held at Northwestern University on January 23, 1970. This was the first of several events held at university campuses across the United States in the lead-up to the first Earth Day. Also, Ralph Nader began talking about the importance of ecology in 1970.
The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US. Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, New York, and widespread opposition to open-air nuclear weapons tests with their global nuclear fallout, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her influential bestseller, Silent Spring (1962).
Significance of April 22
Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an "environmental teach-in". He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks. Moreover, it did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22. The day also fell after the anniversary of the birth of noted conservationist John Muir. The National Park Service, John Muir National Historic Site, has a celebration every year on or around Earth Day (April 21, 22, or 23), called Birthday-Earth Day, in recognition of Earth Day and John Muir's contribution to the collective consciousness of environmentalism and conservation.
Unbeknownst to Nelson, April 22, 1970, was coincidentally the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, when translated to the Gregorian calendar (which the Soviets adopted in 1918). Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick", and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, "subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them." J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters, an idea borne out by the similarity with the subbotnik instituted by Lenin in 1920 as days on which people would have to do community service, which typically consisted in removing rubbish from public property and collecting recyclable material. Subbotniks were also imposed on other countries within the compass of Soviet power, including Eastern Europe, and at the height of its power the Soviet Union established a nationwide subbotnik to be celebrated on Lenin's birthday, April 22, which had been proclaimed a national holiday celebrating communism by Nikita Khrushchev in 1955.
Earth Day anthems
Earth Anthem (Abhay K)
There are many songs that are performed on Earth Day, that generally fall into two categories. Popular songs by contemporary artists not specific to Earth Day that are under copyright or new lyrics adapted to children's songs. UNESCO has termed Indian poet-diplomat Abhay Kumar's idea of an official Earth Anthem as a creative and inspiring thought that would contribute to bringing the world together. Kumar's "Earth Anthem" has been translated into eight languages including all official languages of the United Nations viz. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish. The other two languages are Hindi and Nepali. It was launched in June 2013 on the occasion of the World Environment Day by Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, Union Ministers of India at a function organized by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in New Delhi. India's Central Board of Secondary Education or CBSE has started using it for educational purposes. Earth Anthem has also been used by partner schools of British Council Schools Online, Regent School, Abuja, Euro School, Kathmandu, Loreto Day School Kolkata Assam Valley School among others. It is also supported by the global organization Habitat For Humanity.
The U.S. Consul General Jennifer McIntyre has called Kumar's Earth Anthem a significant contribution to Earth Day and truly an anthem for the Earth. Academy Award winner Hollywood director Jeffrey D. Brown called it a joyous celebration of common humanity.
Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala and singing nun Ani Choying Drolma have advocated an official Earth Anthem and appreciated the work being done by poet-diplomat Abhay K towards an official Earth Anthem. Indian film-maker Shyam Benegal has called multi-language lyrics extremely inspiring.
Earth Day Anthem (William Wallace)
The "Ode to Joy" melody by Beethoven, the official anthem of the European Union, also is performed on the Earth Day. Lyrics for the Earth Day Anthem set to "Ode to Joy" are as follows:
Joyful joyful we adore our Earth in all its wonderment
Simple gifts of nature that all join into a paradiseWe make our home a newborn world
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
- March for Science (22 April 2017)
- Air pollution
- Arbor Day
- Net capacity factor
- Carbon footprint
- Copenhagen Accord
- Earth Charter
- Earth Hour
- Expo '74: "Celebrating Tomorrow's Fresh New Environment"
- International Day of Forests
- International Mother Earth Day
- Live Earth
- Pale Blue Dot
- World Environment Day by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- World Water Day
- Environmental politics
- IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
- Paris Agreement
- Politics of global warming
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- Earth Day
- Earth Day Network – Coordinating worldwide events for Earth Day
- Earth Day Event Calendar at the EnviroLink Network
- United States Earth Day – The U.S. government's Earth Day site
- Earth Day Canada – The Canadian Official Site for Earth Day
- Earth Day at The History Channel
- How the First Earth Day Came About by Senator Gaylord Nelson
- EPA Journal: Earth Day – an entire journal dedicated to Earth Day, written in early 1990
- Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day: The Making of the Modern Environmental Movement narrative account of the origins of Earth Day, Nelson's political career, as well as online access to documents from the Wisconsin Historical Society's Nelson Papers collection
- Equinoctial Earth Day
- Earth Society Foundation – Official organization arranging annual equinox Earth Day celebration at the United Nations