52 years ago, the world came together to set April 22 as the annual date for Earth Day to celebrate environmental diversity as well as to support environmental protection.
The holiday is celebrated by more than 190 countries, which recruit more than a billion people to act each year, according to the official Earth Day website. It has influenced a global movement that has led to environmentally friendly legislation, advocacy and research aimed at honoring our home planet.
While countries are working to achieve their sustainability goals, Earth Day is today to inspire everyone and highlight what they can do to be a part of the green movement.
Which way will the world go? While some warming is guaranteed, changes can still be made to reduce global carbon emissions and slow down the impact of climate change. NBCLX’s climate storyteller, Chase Kane, breaks down what we need to do next.
In what year did Earth Day begin?
Earth Day began in 1970 after decades of industrial development signaling negative consequences, threatening human and environmental health.
Who organized the first Earth Day?
The holiday began as an effort to organize university campus studies on sustainability amid threats of climate change from human behaviors.
In 1969, then San. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin was inspired by the movement against the Vietnam War of students and wanted to ignite the same energy to raise awareness of the pollution. Nelson received San then as well. Pete MacLowski of California will serve as its co-chair.
Dennis Hayes, a young activist who later joined Nelson’s team, recruited 85 more people to join the effort. The team changed the name to Earth Day, attracted national media attention and inspired 20 million Americans to show resistance against 150 years of industrial development that adversely affected human health.
There have been thousands of demonstrations across the country in colleges, cities, towns and communities following First Earth Day.
The campaign went global in 1990 when it reached more than 200 million people in 141 countries, paving the way for the 1992 UN Summit in Rio de Janeiro and stepping up global recycling efforts.
What did the first Earth Day achieve?
First Earth Day has led to numerous regulations and environmental legislation, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act.
Former President Richard Nixon proposed setting up the U.S. Environmental Protest Agency that year. Two years later in 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act. In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act.
Why is Earth Day always on April 22nd?
Since First Earth Day was supposed to be on campus in college, Hayes chose April 22 because it falls between the spring break and the final exam weeks to attract a higher attendance. According to EarthSky.org, the date was also Harbor Day, a day observed for people to plant trees.
Since the first Earth Day, April 22 has become a significant date when it comes to important environmental events including the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016. In 2021, President Joe Biden hosted a summit of climate leaders on April 22-23.
Citing more than 34,000 peer-reviewed works, 270 scientists from around the world published the UN IPCC report on climate change, warning global leaders to take action now to ensure a secure climate future. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the report calls for more investment to protect against exacerbating natural disasters, explains NBCLX’s storyteller Chase Kane.
How has Earth Day evolved since the first celebration?
In early 2000, the campaign brought in more than 5,000 existing groups in 184 countries, and an active organization around the world.
In the 21st century, Earth Day is not celebrated by day, but by week. Instead of seeing demonstrations and rallies in person, raising awareness through social media platforms is on the rise as technology evolves. There were also more youth-led movements and recognition of environmental equality.
The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Invest in our planet”, according to the campaign website.
Experts say that agriculture accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. NBC10 meteorologist Chris Gloninger is exploring ways to help solve this problem by examining how food is grown and where it comes from.