I’m sure you all know about Earth Day which happens every year on April 22nd. However, do you know the history behind it, or where we could be without it? The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 in the USA. Prior to this, it was a common sight to see factories spewing dark plumes of toxic smoke into the atmosphere, as well as for water systems to be polluted with toxic waste, often put there by large corporations. Why was this the case you may ask? Well, that’s because at this point in time there were no environmental regulations, meaning no Environmental Protection Agency, no Clean Air act, nothing of the sort. Due to lack of regulations, companies, or individuals, could get away with destroying the natural environment with no repercussions, as it was perfectly legal to do so. This changed when US Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day in 1970 as a way to force these pollution issues into the national agenda, having been inspired by anti-war efforts. The first Earth Day resulted in a total of twenty million Americans taking part (10% of the entire US population at the time). As a result of this outpouring of support, the Environmental Protection Agency was created in December of 1970, as well as the National Environmental Education Act, and the Clean Air Act. As you can see, from the get go Earth Day was a cause that most could get behind.
The First Earth Day Rally, credit Earthday.org
Fast forward twenty years and Earth Day had finally gone global. This coincided with the creation of Earth Day the organization in France and Canada, leading to the creation of Earth Day Canada (Jour de la Terre Canada). Since 1995, Quebec has celebrated Earth Day by hosting environmental awareness activities and rallies, and has continued to grow due to their ability to mobilise numerous stakeholders. During the 90s, the importance of Earth Day had grown so much that US President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honour given to civilians in the US, due to his role in the establishment of Earth Day.
Earth Day has been able to remain successful due to its readiness to evolve with the times. This was seen in Earth Day 2000 where the now widely established internet was used to reach out to over 5000 environmental groups in 184 countries. The message that year was clear, citizens demanded fast action on climate change. There were of course challenges along the way. In the 2010s, Earth Day and climate change activists were met with an influx of climate deniers, rich oil lobbyists, and a public that was slipping into cynical views of environmental change. Despite these challenges, Earth Day and earthday.org were able to prevail, and continue to establish themselves as global environmental movements.
Now, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by over 1 billion people each year as a day to create local, and global environmental change. By adopting digital strategies and using the power of social media, Earth Day has been able to continue to grow and mobilise citizens around the world. Even in the face of a global pandemic, Earth Day was able to shift its celebrations to digitally uplift the voice of concerned environmentalists all across the globe.
This year, we are very excited to be creating a series in collaboration with Earth Day Canada, as we prepare to celebrate this April 22nd. This series will be titled “Every Day Eco Heroes” and will celebrate the efforts of environmentalists both locally and globally by shining a spotlight on their actions. By doing so, we hope to inspire all of you to treat every day like it is Earth Day, and be the best eco-heroes we can be. This main series will be posted every Friday, starting next week on April 8. Apart from this main series, we also have a few fun, more informal articles which will be released every Monday. These posts will include environmental tips and ways that we can all show Earth a little more love.