Earth Day 2023: The History and Celebration of the Environmental Movement

March 02, 2023

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Each year on April 22, countries around the world celebrateEarth Day. Today, people come together to recognize the achievements of the environmental movement. More importantly, Earth Day prompts citizens worldwide to raise awareness and act against environmental issues plaguing the planet.

History of Earth Day

Before celebrating the first Earth Day, automobiles in America consumed large amounts of leaded gas. Industrial establishments also belched out smoke and gunk without regard for the consequences. And people thought of air pollution as “the smell of prosperity.”

The lack of accountability among individuals and industries was blatant. Yet, they were oblivious to environmental concerns and how pollution threatens human health, biodiversity, and future generations.

In 1962, people’s views changed when they read Rachel Carson’s environmental science bookSilent Spring.The book revealed the dangers of modern chemicals, and readers discovered how damaging the air and water caused medical problems for humans.

What on Earth Is Earth Day?

earth day + one world

Earth Day is an annual event established initially to raise awareness of the impact of pollution on human health and the environment.

In January 1969, amassive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, expelled an estimated 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean, which killed thousands of birds and marine wildlife. United States Senator Gaylord Nelson was among the many who witnessed this disaster, and it inspired him to start an environmental movement.

Around the same time as this incident, a student anti-war movement occurred. Senator Nelson thought of harnessing the students’ energy for another crucial advocacy: to open the public’s eye to air and water pollution and environmental conservation. After announcing his plan to conduct teach-ins for college students to the media, Senator Nelson asked Congressman Pete McCloskey to be his co-chair. Together, they recruited young activist Denis Hayes to organize the campus teach-ins.

Hayes recognized their advocacy’s potential to inspire all Americans, so he assembled a national staff to promote events. Soon, more organizations, such as faith groups, became involved, so they changed the event’s name to “Earth Day.” This sparked national media attention.

As a result, 20 million Americans became part of the first Earth Day in 1970. People gathered publicly to protest against the damage caused by industrial development over the last 150 years, which put humans and the environment at risk. Those who sought environmental justice also discussed ways to defend the planet.

When Is Earth Day Celebrated?

Earth Day falls on April 22 yearly. Senator Nelson and his team chose this date because of its convenience for college students, who were the original target audience for the event. They believed they could gather the most student participation on this day, as it did not interfere with final exams, Spring Break, and holidays such as Easter.

While Earth Day events began in the US in 1970, it wasn’t until 1990 that other countries started to join the movement. A group of environmental leaders met with Hayes to organize a global campaign, and together they mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries. This put Earth Day on the world stage and allowed everyone to be involved in advocacy that unites diverse nations.

The 1990 Earth Day celebrations encouraged recycling efforts worldwide and gave way to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.

When the millennium came, Hayes led another Earth Day campaign focussing on global warming and renewable energy. Five thousand environmental groups from 184 countries got involved in Earth Day 2000 and leveraged the internet to rally international support. In the US, people flocked to the National Mall in Washington, DC, and held a First Amendment Rally.

In the 30th year of Earth Day, citizens sent world leaders a unanimous message: They wanted immediate and decisive action on the most pressing environmental problems.

Currently, Earth Day is the most extensive secular celebration in the world. Hundreds of millions participate in it yearly, and the fight for sustainability and a clean environment continues.

Earth Day’s Impact Around the World

Celebrate Earth Day

The first Earth Day brought together groups that had previously fought against air pollution, water pollution, power plants, carbon emissions, growing carbon footprint, and environmental degradation. Now citizens and activists have a widely recognized platform to raise awareness and inspire action.

Issues like global warming are being met with practical actions such as climate education. People also recognize the importance of sustainable development and caring for the natural world for future generations.

One massive impact of the increased public support for Earth Day was the establishment of the United States Environmental Protection Agency at the end of 1970. The following first-of-their-kind environmental laws were also passed:

  • National Environmental Education Act.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act.
  • Clean Air Act.
  • Clean Water Act.
  • Endangered Species Act.
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
  • Toxic Substances Control Act.

Earth Day’s impact has gone beyond the US as well. For instance, in 2009, the United Nations General Assembly formally recognized April 22 as “International Mother Earth Day.”The Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, was adopted by 196 parties at the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2015. It was enforced in November 2016.

The Earth Day Network

The Earth Day Network (EDN) is an environmental organization founded on the premise that “all people have a moral right to a healthy, sustainable environment.” EDN has more than 20,000 partner organizations across 190 countries, and they’re all united in supporting the Earth Day mission all year round. They mobilize communities, organize activism campaigns, and push for education and public policy.

EDN’s events and projects around the world revolve around core issues. Here’s how you can be part of the change (and have the perfect style to go with it!):

  • Advocacy: Encourage organizations and individuals to discuss environmental issues with elected officials. Inspire others to adopt earth-friendly habits, such as recycling, composting, and reducing their carbon footprint.

  • Love Your Mother Earth T-Shirt

    Love Your Mother Earth T-Shirt

  • Biology and Conservation: Take steps to conserve the planet’s biodiversity. For instance, you can organize tree-planting efforts in your local area.

  • Biology: It Grows On You T-Shirt

    Biology It Grows On You T-Shirt

  • Climate Change: Educate people about climate change and how individuals and industries contribute. Then share the steps everyone can take to slow it down.

  • PSA: Climate Change Is Real T-Shirt

    Climate Change Is Real T-Shirt

  • Education: Get involved with environmental education programs that provide the public with resources and solutions to cultivate a cleaner and more sustainable planet.

  • Demand Evidence and Think Critically T-Shirt

    Demand Evidence and Think Critically T-Shirt

  • Energy: Make the move towards renewable energy. You can also support projects that develop renewable energy sources and technologies.

  • Big Fan of Renewable Energy T-Shirt

    Big Fan of Renewable Energy T-Shirt

  • Food and Agriculture: Advocate against using chemical pesticides, which cause environmental degradation. Instead, encourage organic and sustainable agricultural practices.

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    Slice of Pi Tank Top

  • Green Economy: Support the creation of green industries and job opportunities.

  • Science! It’s A Blast T-Shirt

    Science It's A Blast T-Shirt

  • Recycling and Waste Reduction: Reduce the waste you produce by recycling or upcycling and opting for items you can reuse eventually.

  • Recycle Symbol T-Shirt

    Recycle Symbol T-Shirt

  • Sustainable Development: Take part in practices that respect biodiversity and give back to nature by caring for natural resources.

  • There Is No Planet B Hoodie

    There Is No Planet B Hoodie

    Join the Environmental Movement and Celebrate Earth Day

    There are many ways to take part in the Earth Day 2023 celebrations. Whether you plant trees, help end plastic pollution, participate in local cleanups, engage in climate literacy, or use your voting power to protect the environment, every little act can make a big difference.

    Don’t forget to check out the awesome apparel from ourEarth Day collection so that you can celebrate with the world in style!


    Earth Day Collection

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