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Earth Day is celebrated in the USmarker on April 22 and is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) as an environmental teach-in in 1970 and is celebrated in many countries every year. This date is Spring in the Northern Hemispheremarker and Autumn in the Southern Hemispheremarker.

The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year on the March equinox, which is often March 20, a tradition which was founded by peace activist John McConnell in 1969.

History of the April 22 Day

Gaylord Nelson's announcement

Earth day symbol


In September 1969, at a conference in Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsinmarker announced that in spring 1970 there would be a nationwide, grassroots demonstration about the environment. Senator Nelson first proposed the nationwide, environmental protest to thrust the environment onto the national agenda. "It was a gamble," he recalled, "but it worked."

Conceptual development

Ron Cobb created an ecology symbol, which was later adopted as the Earth Day symbol. It was published on November 7, 1969, in the Los Angeles Free Press and then it was placed in the public domain. The symbol was a combination of the letters "E" and "O" taken from the words "Environment" and "Organism", respectively. The theta symbol, to which it is similar, has been used throughout history as a warning. Look magazine incorporated the symbol into a flag in their April 21, 1970 issue. The flag was patterned after the flag of the United States, and had thirteen alternating green-and-white stripes. Its canton was green with the ecology symbol being where the stars would be in the United States flag.

According to Senator Nelson, the moniker "Earth Day" was "an obvious and logical name" suggested by "a number of people" in the fall of 1969, including, he writes, both "a friend of mine who had been in the field of public relations" and "a New York advertising executive," Julian Koenig. Koenig was on Nelson's organizing committee in 1969. April 22 also happened to be Koenig's birthday, and as "Earth Day" rhymed with "birthday," the idea came to him easily, he said. Other names circulated during preparations—Nelson himself continued to call it the National Environment Teach-In, but press coverage of the event was "practically unanimous" in its use of "Earth Day," so the name stuck.

On November 30, 1969, in a long, front-page New York Times article, Gladwin Hill wrote:

"Rising concern about the "environmental crisis" is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental problems, analogous to the mass demonstrations on Vietnam, is being planned for next spring, when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."


Senator Nelson also hired Denis Hayes to coordinate the event nationally.

In the winter of 1969 a group of students met at Columbia University to hear Denis Hayes talk about his plans for Earth Day. Among the group were Fred Kent, Pete Grannis, and Kristin and William Hubbard. This New York group agreed to head up the New York City part of the national movement. Fred Kent took the lead in renting an office and recruiting volunteers. "The big break came when Mayor Lindsay agreed to shut down 5th Avenue for the event. A giant cheer went up in the office on that day," according to Kristin Hubbard (now Kristin Alexandre). 'From that time on we used Mayor Lindsay's offices and even his staff. I was Speaker Coordinator but had tremendous help from Lindsay staffer Judith Crichton."

Rollout and ongoing development

On April 22, 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Approximately 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable environment.

Hayes and his old staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plant, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeway, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage, Earth Day on April 22 in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiromarker.

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focusing on global warming and pushing for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the Internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 came around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabonmarker, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mallmarker in Washington, D.C.marker, USA.

Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kievmarker, Ukrainemarker; Caracasmarker, Venezuelamarker; Tuvalumarker; Manilamarker, Philippinesmarker; Togomarker; Madridmarker, Spainmarker; Londonmarker; and New Yorkmarker.

Earth Day Network

Earth Day Network was founded by the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970 to promote environmental citizenship and year-round progressive action, domestically and internationally. Through the Earth Day Network, activists can connect change in local, national, and global policies. The international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental-protection activities throughout the year.

Earth Day Canada

Earth Day Canada logo
Earth Day Canada (EDC), a national environmental charity founded in 1990, provides Canadians with the practical knowledge and tools they need to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2004, it was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America, for its innovative year-round programs and educational resources, by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the world's largest association of environmental educators. In 2008, it was chosen as Canada’s “Outstanding Non-profit Organization” by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. EDC regularly partners with thousands of organizations in all parts of Canada. EDC hosts a suite of six environmental programs: Ecokids, EcoMentors, EcoAction Teams, Community Environment Fund, Hometown Heroes and the Toyota Earth Day Scholarship Program.

History of the Equinox Earth Day

The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemispheremarker, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemispheremarker. An equinox in astronomy is that moment in time (not a whole day) when the center of the Sun can be observed to be directly "above" the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. In most cultures, the equinoxes and solstices are considered to start or separate the seasons.

[[Image:John McConnell Mar15 2008 cmm.jpg|right|thumb|200px|John McConnell in front of his home in Denver, Colorado with the Earth Flag he designed.]]

John McConnell first introduced the idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day" at the 1969 UNESCOmarker Conference on the Environment. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Franciscomarker Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. Celebrations were held in various cities, such as San Francisco and in Davis, California with a multi-day street party. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell's global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:
May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.


Secretary General Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies on the March equinox in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox (the United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22 global event). Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:
"EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.

EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate."
At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe Earth Day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, whish was donated by Japan to the United Nations. Over the years, celebrations have occurred in various places worldwide at the same time as the UN celebration. On March 20, 2008, in addition to the ceremony at the United Nations, ceremonies were held in New Zealand, and bells were sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo and many other locations. The equinox Earth Day at the UN is organized by the Earth Society Foundation.

April 22 Observances

Growing Eco-activism before Earth Day 1970

The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US, in both theory and practice. It was in the mid-1960s that Congress passed the sweeping Wilderness Act, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked, "Who speaks for the trees?" Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, New Yorkmarker, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her bestseller, Silent Spring (1962).

Ralph Nader began talking about the importance of ecology in 1970.

Earth Day 1970

Responding to widespread environmental degradation, Gaylord Nelson, a United States Senator from Wisconsinmarker, called for an environmental teach-in, or Earth Day, to be held on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and Earth Day is now observed on April 22 each year by more than 500 million people and several national governments in 175 countries.

Senator Nelson, an environmental activist, took a leading role in organizing the celebration, hoping to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda. He modeled it on the highly effective Vietnam War protests of the time. The concept of Earth Day was first proposed in a memo to JFK written by Fred Dutton.

According to Santa Barbara, Californiamarker Community Environmental Council:
The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after the horrific oil spillmarker off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth.




Senator Nelson selected Denis Hayes, a Harvard Universitymarker graduate student, as the national coordinator of activities. Hayes said he wanted Earth Day to "bypass the traditional political process." Garrett DuBell compiled and edited The Environmental Handbook the first guide to the Environmental Teach-In. Its symbol was a green Greek letter theta, "the dead theta".

One of the organizers of the event said:
"We're going to be focusing an enormous amount of public interest on a whole, wide range of environmental events, hopefully in such a manner that it's going to be drawing the interrelationships between them and, getting people to look at the whole thing as one consistent kind of picture, a picture of a society that's rapidly going in the wrong direction that has to be stopped and turned around.
"It's going to be an enormous affair, I think. We have groups operating now in about 12,000 high schools, 2,000 colleges and universities and a couple of thousand other community groups. It's safe to say I think that the number of people who will be participating in one way or another is going to be ranging in the millions."
The nationwide event included opposition to the Vietnam War on the agenda, but this was thought to detract from the environmental message. Pete Seeger was a keynote speaker and performer at the event held in Washington DC. Paul Newman and Ali McGraw attended the event held in New York City.

The most notable organization to protest the event was the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Results of Earth Day 1970

Earth Day proved popular in the United States and around the world. The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants 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."

Senator Nelson stated that Earth Day "worked" because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. Twenty-million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated. He directly credited the first Earth Day with persuading U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. Many important laws were passed by Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, wild lands and the ocean, and the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

It is now observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year." Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

Significance of April 22

  • Senator 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; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, 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. Asked whether he had purposely chosen Lenin's 100th birthday, Nelson explained that with only 365 days a year and 3.7 billion people in the world, every day was the birthday of ten million living people. “On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” he said. "A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22."
  • April 21 was the birthday of John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club. This was not lost on organizers who thought April 22 was Muir's birthday.
  • April 22, 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladimir Lenin. Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick," and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them." J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters, although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist. Some far-left groups have also stated that they "influenced" Nelson to pick April 22 during the initial organizing period, but it seems not to have been a conscious decision of his.
  • April 22 is also the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, a national tree-planting holiday started in 1872. Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraskamarker in 1885, to be permanently observed on April 22. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation "the most common day for the state observances is the last Friday in April . . . but a number of state Arbor Days are at other times in order to coincide with the best tree-planting weather." It has since been largely eclipsed by the more widely-observed Earth Day, except in Nebraska, where it originated.


Earth Week

Many cities extend the observance of Earth Day events to an entire week, usually starting on April 16 and ending on Earth Day, April 22. These events are designed to encourage environmentally-aware behaviors, such as recycling, using energy efficiently, and reducing or reusing disposable items.

April 22 continues to be the date of the Annual Iowahawk "Virtual Cruise," attended by millions worldwide.

Earth Day Ecology Flag

According to Flags of the World, the Ecology Flag was created by cartoonist Ron Cobb, published on November 7, 1969, in the Los Angeles Free Press, then placed in the public domain. The symbol is a combination of the letters "E" and "O" taken from the words "Environment" and "Organism," respectively. The flag is patterned after the United States' flag, with thirteen alternating-green-and-whites stripes. Its canton is green with a yellow theta. Later flags used either a theta, because of its historic use as a warning symbol, or the peace symbol. Theta would later become associated with Earth Day.

As a 16-year-old high school student, Betsy Vogel, an environmental advocate and social activist who enjoyed sewing costumes and unique gifts, made a 4 x green-and-white "theta" ecology flag to commemorate the first Earth Day. Initially denied permission to fly the flag at C.marker E.marker Byrd High Schoolmarker in Shreveport, Louisianamarker, Vogel sought and received authorization from the Louisiana State Legislature and Louisiana Governor John McKeithen in time to display the flag for Earth Day.

Criticisms of Earth Day

Some environmentalists have become critical of Earth Day, particularly those in the bright green environmentalism camp. They charge that Earth Day has come to symbolize the marginalization of environmental sustainability, and the celebration itself has outlived its usefulness.

A May 5, 2009 editorial in The Washington Times compared Arbor Day to Earth Day, claiming that Arbor Day was a happy, non-political celebration of trees, whereas Earth Day was a pessimistic, political ideology that portrayed humans in a negative light.

See also



References

External links

April 22 Earth Day

Equinoctal Earth Day


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