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Celebrate Earth Day, History and More

Did you know that Earth Day is April 22nd? Many people don’t know about Earth Day, or don’t know how to best celebrate this very special, eco-friendly day. Earth Day is celebrated in more than 190 countries, and was first designated in 1970 after being proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson, who teamed up with his fellow Senate member, Pete McCloskey. Nelson had witnessed a massive oil spill out of Santa Barbara, California, spurring him into action.

The Founding of Earth Day

Leading up to this momentous day, the world had been polluting the air and oceans with no thought of the negative consequences. Oil, gas, plastics, and pesticides were among the biggest offenders. In fact, it wasn’t until the damage became so evident that some people in power could not ignore it. Oil spills in particular showcased incredible devastation occurring in and around our oceans, as a result. It was suddenly a priority to right these wrongs before more inevitable destruction could occur – but how? We had become completely dependent on the very products that would certainly be our demise.

Photo by Blake Verdoorn on Unsplash

Senator Nelson had been watching the college students and their anti-war protests and had the idea to somehow steer that energy into bringing public awareness to the environmental issue at hand. He suggested a “teach-in” (at the time, protests frequently involved a “sit-in”, where protesters would occupy the business they were protesting against) in American colleges, and pitched his idea to the press choosing April 22, between spring break and final exams, to maximize student attendance and participation. It was largely a bi-partisan event that brought individual groups and organizations fighting against things like toxic dumps, oil spills, pesticides, freeways, wildlife extinction prevention including the destruction of rainforests and others, together, in a worldwide concerted effort.

On that first Earth Day, more than 20 million Americans demonstrated industrial development causing serious harm to our environment, which was a whopping 10% of the population at the time. Thousands of colleges and universities organized rallies and protests across the country. The first Earth Day resulted in the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as well as many other notable environmental laws. Some of these were the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act or OSHA, and the Clean Air Act. A short time later came the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. These laws are still in place today.

Earth Day at the United Nations

1990 was another notable Earth Day, and this time the campaign went global. This time, 200 million people were mobilized in 141 countries. This made environmental concerns a worldwide effort, boosting recycling and bringing these concerns to the forefront of public awareness. This led to the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992 being formed. Additionally, President Clinton awarded former Senator Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in founding Earth Day. Over the decades since, other major campaigns have been launched, focusing on environmental conservation topics like global warming, climate change, green energy and numerous measures towards saving our unique, beautiful planet. It has ultimately brought hundreds of millions of people in 193 countries opportunities for engagement and volunteerism in these environmental causes.

Earth Day 2022

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

This year as we reflect on the state of our country, moving into a new era post-pandemic, another Earth Day is almost here – giving us a new opportunity for engagement in environment-saving activities. No matter where you live, there are a variety of things that contribute value which can be accomplished by groups and individuals alike. Environmental concerns today have never been more urgent, over half a century later. It’s already most likely too late, to reverse our course of irreparable damage to catastrophic levels. However, it remains an urgent priority to slow the pollution to negligible, in order to prolong the inevitable destruction of our atmosphere, which would be the end of all life on planet earth.

Because the need for a solution has reached a critical point, Earth Day has never been more important. The movement needs every person to do their part, not just on Earth Day, but every day. New Yorkers who live in the city have a unique opportunity to set an example for the rest of the major cities across the country. Some of the best opportunities are things like organizing a small committee to clean up the neighborhood you live in, promoting garbage separation and proper disposal and recycling of different types of waste or trash. Make up some flyers with good information on how to do this for each member to distribute as they go. The more the merrier!

How to Celebrate Earth Day

Here are some other great ideas of things you can do to show your support, and celebrate Earth Day, in NYC or anywhere:

  • Donate to your favorite environmental cause.
  • Share a ride to avoid excess pollution, in NYC we have the benefit of taking mass transit.
  • Commit to reducing your carbon footprint (don’t buy plastics, walk instead of drive, invest in an EV, conserve energy, use sustainable materials, support causes etc.)
  • Plant something (a tree, a houseplant, an herb garden, etc.)
  • Buy produce from a local farmer’s market
  • Pack a lunch (no plastics!) and go hiking – find a special place to be alone and commune with nature (yes, even Central Park or Prospect Park count)
  • Find a local organization that promotes environmental causes you agree with, and donate some of your time
  • Commit to practicing a new outdoor activity
  • Start a local or neighborhood environmental movement
  • Check out our sustainability tab for more ideas and news of environmentally friendly things.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. Now that you know the origins, history, significance, and urgency of supporting Earth Day on April 22nd, let’s all join together and do our part to save the miraculous, life-giving planet we live on.

Rochelle Harris is a passionate writer originally from Phoenix, AZ. who credits her success to integrity and determination. She has a great sense of humor, loves music and her family, and writes fiction and poetry in her spare time. She is excited about the New York experience and lifestyle! Follow Rochelle on Twitter at @LinguisticAnRky or get in touch at [email protected]