The History of Earth Day

Earth Day is on April 22 and this year marks 50 years since the first Earth Day.

It was because of a book titled "Slient Spring"  by Rachel Carson published in 1962 that the general public became more aware of environmental concerns. By 1970, the first Earth Day was held as a way for citizens to express their concerns about the environment. During a time where many young people were rallying against the Vietnam war as well as protesting and demonstrating about other social issues on the home front, US Senator and founder, Gaylord Nelson decided that between spring break and finals week, he would encourage young people to join the "national teach-in on the enironment."

Earth Day achieved a goal that is impossible to believe today and that is politcal alignment. Many people were fighting against unsuitable water, loss of animal life, smog filled air and toxic waste. All politics aside, the fight for a better Earth began. By the end of 1970, the Clean Air Act was passed and was followed by the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act the following two years.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash

By 1990, Earth Day was being practiced every year in the United States, but in this particular year it went global. In over 141 countries, there were people creating efforts for recycling and a better Earth. In 1992, the first United Nations Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro. Senator Nelson was granted the US Medal of Freedom for his efforts and success at creating Earth Day and giving the United States a united front. 

In 2000, Earth Day in the United States included a march on the Washington Mall. It began to become clear to congressmen and leaders that people around the world wanted clear, fast and decisive answers and actions on global warming and clean energy.

However, by 2010, Earth Day and climate activism had changed drastically. Instead of the united front we had in 1992, we were met with denial and politics. Earth Day was almost beaten down by division in the world. Yet it prevailed. In 2010, A Billion Acts of Green was launched. It is the world's largest environmental project along with The Canopy Project which is aimed at planting trees worldwide. 

We Don't Have Time Markus Spiske- Unsplash In 2020, after 50 years of Earth Day, there is mass division in the world of climate activism. Young and old people alike are still rallying strong to fight large corporations and unjust legislation along with raising awareness of the facts that are present. There are major campaigns that have been created for 2020. The Earth Day Network strives to activate at least 1 billion people to join the cause for the 50th anniversary. To get involved, click here to read more about these campaigns.

To read more about Earth Day and climate efforts including voting, activities, and virtual action, go to


HXCO, Cecilia

Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash