Earth Day is usually celebrated every April 22. However, this Day for Earth is not only commemorated on that date. The name Earth Day is given for two different warnings carried out every year.
The purpose of this anniversary is to raise awareness about various environmental issues and problems. The movement also intends to inspire people to take personal action to overcome environmental issues and problems faced.
That was the general purpose of Earth Day’s warning, apart from that, the two events were not interconnected. Even though it was only one month apart in 1970 when both were celebrated, they had a different history. Since then both have gained widespread acceptance and popularity worldwide.
The History of Earth Day
Earth Day is celebrated by most people in the United States every April 22, but actually, there are other dates that are earlier commemorating a day dedicated to the Earth and celebrated internationally.
The first commemoration of the day for Earth was held on March 21, 1970, the vernal equinox (spring equinox) that year. The celebration was the brainchild of John McConnell, a newspaper publisher and community activist who had an influential role. He proposed the idea of a global vacation called Earth Day when the UNESCO Environmental Conference was held in 1969.
He suggested that the idea is used as an annual memorial so that people of the earth remember their shared responsibilities as environmental administrators. The timing of its operation was chosen during the vernal equinox, which became the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the southern hemisphere. McConnell chose that day because it was a renewal day.
When the vernal equinox period takes place, any hemisphere has the same length of night and day. Believed by McConnell, a day dedicated to Earth must be a time of equilibrium when people can recognize the similarities of their needs to preserve Earth’s resources.
Finally, on February 26, 1971, a statement was signed by UN Secretary-General U Thant that the United Nations would celebrate Earth Day every year during the vernal equinox. The statement officially establishes the March date as International Earth Day.
Commemoration of Earth Day in America
Approximately one month from the commemoration of the First Earth Day, April 22, 1970, was the time for the national day of environmental education and activism by Environmental Teach-In to be called Earth Day. This event was initiated and organized by Gaylord Nelson, environmental activist and US Senator from Wisconsin with the aim to show other US politicians that the public supports a political agenda focus on environmental issues.
Nelson cares about environmental issues since the 1960s. The idea of dedicating a day to Earth itself came when Nelson witnessed the case of an oil spill on the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969. The case seemed to be a catalyst for Nelson to act because of his figure who often showed a sense of caring for the environment. Nelson also earned the nickname as Governor of Conservation because of the reform of his environment.
Earth Day of Nelson’s idea that was held in 1970 was a form of environmental awareness. From his Senate office, Nelson began organizing the event and commissioned two staff members to work on. Nelson also received help from John Gardner, founder of Common Cause in the form of office space because of the lack of space needed to organize the event. As coordinator of Earth Day, Nelson chose Denis Hayes, a Harvard University student and gave him student volunteer staff to help.
The event finally went smoothly and very successfully to spark Earth Day celebrations at thousands of colleges, universities, schools, and communities throughout the US. The success of this event was published in a 1993 article in American Heritage Magazine which stated that the event, which was held on April 22, 1970, was one of the most extraordinary events in the history of democracy. As many as 20 million people participated to show their support for the event.
After that day, Congress passed many important environmental laws, including the Clean Air Law, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Act that protects wilderness areas. Within three years after Earth Day 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed.
Two decades after the big event took place, participants in Earth Day in 1990 reached 200 million people and they came from 141 different countries. The number of participants of this memorial day continues to grow until now it has become billions of people from 190 countries and more than 5,000 environmental organizations around the world also support it.
Although there are two different dates in celebrating the day for Earth, they both send a message about the personal responsibility we share in “thinking globally and acting locally” as administrators of planet Earth. Overcoming the crisis facing our planet due to global warming is the responsibility of everyone on Earth. As a sign of concern, let’s support both of the Earth Day.