What does Earth Day mean to you?
Given all the uncertainty in the world today (politically, socially, health-wise, Earth-wise), digging into what Earth Day really means is a welcome - and refreshing - breath of fresh air.
History of Earth Day
According to Wikipedia - Earth Day unofficially started on March 21st in 1970 (the first day of Spring) by John McConnell to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
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."
US Senator, Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22nd in 1970. Numerous communities celebrate Earth day Week, an entire week of activities focused on the environmental issues that the world faces. It now is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network.
Significance of April 22nd
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.
Earth Day Goes Global
As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders approached Denis Hayes to once again organize another major campaign for the planet. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 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. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.
As in 1970, Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community to combat the cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community with the collective power of global environmental activism. In the face of these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a major moment for global action for the environment.
Over the decades, Earth Day Network has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism in 193 countries. Earth Day engages more than 1 billion people every year and has become a major stepping stone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet.
Importance of Earth Day
Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.
Now, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day.
As the awareness of our climate crisis grows, so does civil society mobilization, which is reaching a fever pitch across the globe today. Disillusioned by the low level of ambition following the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015 and frustrated with international environmental lethargy, citizens of the world are rising up to demand far greater action for our planet and its people.
The social and cultural environments we saw in 1970 are rising up again today — a fresh and frustrated generation of young people are refusing to settle for platitudes, instead taking to the streets by the millions to demand a new way forward. Digital and social media are bringing these conversations, protests, strikes and mobilizations to a global audience, uniting a concerned citizenry as never before and catalyzing generations to join together to take on the greatest challenge that humankind has faced. By tapping into some of the learnings, outcomes, and legacy of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network is building a cohesive, coordinated, diverse movement, one that goes to the very heart of what EDN and Earth Day are all about — empowering individuals with the information, the tools, the messaging and the communities needed to make an impact and drive change.
For me, today allows me to think what I can do to help the Earth so my kids kids kids have a place to live that is as beautiful as my everyday living. I try to recycle more, waste less, be kind (in general), and properly dispose of litter. If we all could do one extra thing today to help the earth, it would make a vast difference.
Be Safe, Stay Healthy, and Think Bigger Picture