Why do we celebrate Earth Day?
Every April 22, those of us who work day after day to turn this world into a better place celebrate Earth Day. It’s now a long tradition for many people to use this day as time to reflect on our planet’s most pressing issues. Thus, it’s a day used for worldwide debates, celebrations and, most important of all, to spread an environmentally friendly message across the world. Of course, it would be great if all days served this purpose but at least we have this one.
That’s the important thing here – that we actually have a day to celebrate the place we live in. And though we should have had it for centuries, its creation is fairly recent. In fact, we’ve been commemorating Earth for only 45 years – not that much if you ask us. Its beginnings were humble and chaotic, and the true origin of Earth Day is sometimes disputed. However, each passing year cemented its importance, underlined the need for a change for better and made the event grow internationally up to the point we know today.
How it all started
Strangely enough, there actually are 2 Earth Days celebrated each year, both of which had the same background for their creation. The 60s had been a key year for social issues, fueled by the height of the hippie and flower-power culture that swept across the state. During that decade, teenagers from all over the country started worrying about cultural differences, the war in Vietnam and, naturally, the environment.
Of course, the eco-friendly discourse took some time to catch on among the teens, and it wasn’t until the end of the decade that its efforts started to show some results. First, it was peace activist John McConnell who proposed an Earth Day before the UNESCO, in 1969. His idea was to celebrate the planet on March 21, the first day of spring. The UN sanctioned the Proclamation for its creation and, since then, an Earth Day has been celebrated on that day.
However, the day that was more widely recognized as Earth Day is the one conceived by US Senator Gaylord Nelson. He also had the idea in 1969 while witnessing the Santa Barbara oil spill and its devastating results. He knew he could inspire the thousands of students that marched against the war to put pressure on the national politicians and force the environmental issue into the discussion.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="800"] US Senator Gaylord Nelson[/caption]
With that in mind, Nelson started spreading the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” which was lobbied with the help of national media and its national coordinator, Denis Hayes. The result was amazing. More than 20 million Americans participated in all kinds of events across the States’ parks, auditoriums and streets. They were all united under one cause – push for a debate on a healthier and more sustainable environment.
That first celebration was a wonderful success. It led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. While that was a major victory for its organizers, Earth Day made its return the next year – and all the years after that. The US saw it grow larger and larger with each passing year, but something was missing.
That’s what Denis Hayes himself thought when the 1990 celebration approached. Believing that the new decade was time for a change, Hayes ran a huge campaign to take Earth Day to the entire planet. With his efforts, 200 million people in 141 countries were mobilized and demanded for their green message to be heard. From then on, the Earth in its entirety has been celebrating April 22 as the day in which we defend the planet in which we all live.
Today, Earth Day events keep multiplying in more and more countries. Millions of people are already convinced of its power to bring a rich debate to the table and bring attention to the matters that should concern everybody. Given the heated arguments around climate change and the urgent need for action, April 22 has become a key day to demonstrate that we still care about the environment and that we won’t be intimidated but those that don’t take Nature too seriously.
In the true spirit of Earth Day founders, all of us that attend one of the thousands of events to celebrate it want to fight for a healthier environment and for a renewed respect for our planet, our home. So, don’t forget to show that you care and join an Earth Day celebration this week!