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Earth Day


Students pose for a photo with a globe during a campaign to mark World Earth Day.

On April 22, the United States observes Earth Day.

On April 22, the United States observes Earth Day, an opportunity to reflect on the impact of humans on the earth, and to consider how we as individuals can ensure that our impact is positive.


The first Earth Day was planned as a Teach-in, a day to inform about environmental issues. Earth Day founder, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmental activist who was outraged by lack of political response to gross environmental degradation perpetrated around the country, said that he was “convinced that all we need to do to bring an overwhelming insistence of the new generation that we stem the tide of environmental disaster is to present the facts clearly and dramatically. . . .Every university should set aside 1 day in the school year-the same day across the Nation-for the teach-in."

His plan worked: over 20 million people turned up for Senator Nelson’s first Earth Day Teach-in on April 22, 1970. And from then on, the movement grew spontaneously, creating its own momentum with no central directorate.

Gaylord Nelson’s ideals of environmental responsibility resonate now as they did four decades ago. Today, for many, listening to the message is just the beginning. People all over the world participate in activities aimed at improving the environment. They plant trees, clean up public areas and roadsides, and learn how to lead a more environmentally responsible life style. And as Senator Nelson intended, many take their concerns to their political representatives by signing petitions calling for stronger action on environmental issues.

The first Earth Day is considered by many to be the birth of the modern environmental movement. As a direct result of the success of that first celebration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970. Then in 1972, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act became law, followed a year later by the Endangered Species Act.

On that first Earth Day nearly half a century ago, “a generation rallied together to protect the earth we would inherit,” said President Barack Obama last year. “As we reflect on that historic day of activism and stewardship, let us embrace our commitment to the generations yet to come by leaving them a safe, clean world on which to make their mark.”
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