A History of Earth Day

April 22, 2014

As we celebrate the Earth and all of its beauty today, let’s take a moment to look back at a timeline of how this day came to be and the progress that has resulted:

1962: Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, the best seller that brought to light the potential dangers of widespread pesticide use bringing environmental issues to the public’s attention

1963: Senator Gaylord Nelson (served as the Wisconsin State governor before being elected to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1962) convinced and accompanied President Kennedy on a 5 day, 11 state conservation tour in order to raise awareness about environmental issues

1969: Chemical waste released into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River causes it to catch on fire bringing to the forefront the damaging effects of industrial pollution

Earth Day Blog1969: Senator Nelson, inspired by the teach-ins held by Vietnam War protesters on U.S. college campuses, announces the idea for a large scale Earth Day – a grassroots demonstration

April 22, 1970: First Earth Day, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to protest and fight for environmental rights

1970: Environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) founded

December 1970: Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the United States Environmental Protection Agency

1971: Environmental activist group Greenpeace founded

1972-73: Congress passes the Clean Water Act (‘92) and the Endangered Species Act (‘93)

1990: Earth Day goes international with 141 countries participating

1995: President Bill Clinton awards Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom (highest award given to a civilian) in honor of his environmental work

2000: The 30th anniversary of Earth Day was themed “clean energy” with hundreds of millions of participants in 184 countries

2010: In honor of the 40th anniversary of this historic day, a Climate Rally and Concert was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Earth Day has grown into a worldwide event with over 180 countries participating. The combined effort of Senator Gaylord, his staff and the participants across the United States helped spring this day into action. We hope everyone takes a few minutes out of their day to commit to a pledge, no matter how small or large, and join the movement of a billion acts of green to continue environmental and sustainable practices throughout the year.