The world was in a rather negative place in the late sixties, anti-war, political scandals and social issues were just a few of the problems not just America, but every country, faced. Gaylord Nelson, a Senator from Wisconsin, realized that if he could harness even just a portion of that negative energy and turn it into something positive he would be doing the world a great service. He found his cause when there was a huge oil spill on the California coast in late 1969.
He formed a union with another Senator, McClosky, and sought out the the help of Professor Hayes from Harvard and together they came up with the idea of Earth Day. Hayes formed a unit of 85 people and went to work to establish Earth Day, picking April 22nd because it fell between Spring Break and Final Exams. They all knew youth was going to be important to their cause. The first Earth Day came on April 22nd, 1970 and to everyone’s surprise found a following of over 20 million people that showed up to support the efforts.
By 1990 Earth Day had grown to 200 million people in 141 countries around the world. The Environmental Protection Agency came about due directly to the efforts of the supporters of Earth Day which led to the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endanger Species Acts passed by Congress. Today there are over 5,000 environmental groups supported by 184 countries.
Sadly, like everything else humans get involved with we have distorted the original premise. We have made it political with groups from both sides issuing out lies to try and prove their points and gather in as many votes as they can. There are those who have taken it too far on both sides of the issues and we may never get back to what it was originally all about. Its first true message was, lets all do what we can to help save our world and make it the best it can be. All the exaggeration, from all fronts, do is confuse that so simple of an idea. It was meant to bring us all together, not tear us apart.
How to celebrate: First, and the easiest, is just go outside and look at all the natural beauty of the earth. You could join a group trying to save the environment but please check it out and make sure you can support all they are trying to do. Maybe even just plant a tree, or a bush, or even a single flower to make your part of this earth a little better than it was the day before.