On April 22nd, more than 190 countries, including the United States, will celebrate Earth Day. It is a day to reflect on the impact humans have on the earth, and to demonstrate and reaffirm our support for environmental protection.
The first Earth Day was planned as a Teach-in, a day to inform about environmental issues. Earth Day’s founder, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, an environmental activist who was outraged by the lack of political response to gross environmental degradation throughout 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 one 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 organization.
Today, we continue the traditions of that first Earth Day. Because education is the foundation of progress, this year’s theme is Environmental and Climate Literacy. Citizens who understand well the importance of these issues, and the impact they have on our lives, can make small changes to minimize their impact on the environment and influence environmental practices within their communities – even influence environmental policy. By choosing to buy environmentally safe products and to do business with environmentally responsible producers and vendors, they can also accelerate green innovations, technologies, and jobs.
On April 22nd, 1970, in his speech on the first Earth Day, Senator Nelson said: “Our goal is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all human beings and all other creatures. ... Our goal is a decent environment in its deepest and broadest sense.”
Today, these words still resonate as strongly as they did 47 years ago. We are committed to advancing these goals and ideas across the country, and across the globe.