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Earth day

Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is a name used for two different observances, both held annually during spring in the northern hemisphere. These are intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth's environment. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year on the vernal (March) equinox; while a global observance in many countries is held each year on April 22.

The Equinoctial Earth Day[]

The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the vernal equinox (around 21 March) to mark the precise moment of the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. On the equinox, night and day are of equal length anywhere on Earth. Therefore, a perfectly vertical pole standing on the equator at noon during equinox will not cast a shadow. At the South Pole the sun sets and ends a six-month-long day; while at the North Pole the sun rises, ending six months of continuous darkness.

John McConnell first introduced the idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day" at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969, the same year that he designed the Earth flag. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell's global initiative to celebrate this annual event, and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:

May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.[1]

Secretary General Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox. At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe the day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, a bell donated by Japan to the United Nations.[2] The United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22nd global event.

The April 22 Earth Day[]

Growing Eco-activism before Earth Day 1970[]

The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US, in both theory and practice. It was in the mid-1960s that Congress passed the sweeping Wilderness Act, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked, "Who speaks for the trees?" Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, NY, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her shocking bestseller Silent Spring (1962).

Earth Day 1970[]

Responding to widespread environmental degradation, Gaylord Nelson, a United States Senator from Wisconsin, called for an environmental teach-in, or Earth Day, to be held on April 22 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and Earth Day is now observed each year on April 22 by more than 500 million people and national governments in 175 countries. Senator Nelson, an environmental activist, took a leading role in organizing the celebration, hoping to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda. He modeled it on the highly effective Vietnam War protests of the time.[3] The concept of Earth Day was first proposed in a memo to John F. Kennedy written by Fred Dutton.

According to Santa Barbara, California Community Environmental Council:

The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after that horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth.[4]

Senator Nelson selected Denis Hayes, a Harvard University graduate student, as the National Coordinator of activities. Hayes said he wanted Earth Day to "bypass the traditional political process."[5] The nationwide event included opposition to the Vietnam War on the agenda. Pete Seeger was a keynote speaker and performer at the event held in Washington DC. Paul Newman and Ali McGraw attended the event held in New York City.[6]

The Aftermath of Earth Day 1970[]

Earth Day proved popular in the United States and around the world. The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform."[7]

Senator Nelson stated that Earth Day "worked" because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated.[8] He directly credited the first Earth Day with persuading U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. Many important laws were passed by the Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, laws to protect drinking water, wild lands and the ocean, and the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[9]

Now observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year."[10] Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes. [9]

The significance of the date[]

  • April 22 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladmir Lenin. Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick," and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."[5] J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveilance at the 1970 demonstrations.[11] The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters,[12][13] although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist.
  • April 22 is also the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, a national tree-planting holiday started in 1872. Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska in 1885, to be permanently observed on April 22. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation "the most common day for the state observances is the last Friday in April . . . but a number of state Arbor Days are at other times to coincide with the best tree planting weather."[14] It has since been largely eclipsed by the more widely observed Earth Day, except in Nebraska, where it originated.

Earth Week[]

Many cities extend the Earth Day celebration to be an entire week, usually starting on April 16th, and ending on Earth Day, April 22nd.

External links[]


  1. "2004 Earth Day". United Nations "Cyberschoolbus". Accessed April 25 2006.
  2. "Japanese Peace Bell". United Nations "Cyberschoolbus". Accessed April 25 2006.
  3. Brown, Tim (April 11 2005). "What is Earth Day?". United States Department of State. Accessed April 25 2006.
  4. "Earth Day". Santa Barbara Community Environmental Council. Accessed April 25 2006.
  5. 5.0 5.1,9171,943782,00.html | title = "A Memento Mori to the Earth" | accessdate = | date = 1970-05-04 | work = Time
  6. "Environment". United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand. Accessed April 25 2006.
  7. Lewis, Jack (November 1985). "The Birth of EPA". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed April 25 2006.
  8. Nelson, Gaylord. "How the First Earth Day Came About". Accessed April 22 2007
  9. 9.0 9.1 "History of Earth Day". Earth Day Network. Accessed April 25 2006.
  10. "About Earth Day Network". Accessed April 22 2007
  11. Finney, John W. "MUSKIE SAYS F.B.I. SPIED AT RALLIES ON '70 EARTH DAY". The New York Times, April 15 1971. p. 1.
  12. Of Leo and Lenin: Happy Earth Day from the Religious Right |journal= Church & State |volume= 53 |issue= 5 |date= May 2000 |pages= 20
  13. |title= This Earth Day Celebrate Vladimir Lenin's Birthday! |accessdate= 2007-04-22 |last= Marriott |first= Alexander |date= 2004-04-21 |work= Capitalism Magazine
  14. |title= Arbor Day's Beginnings |accessdate=2007-04-22 |publisher= The National Arbor Day Foundation

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This article or parts of this article are based on the Wikipedia article Earth Day licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2 or later. A list of the authors can be found here: [1]. You can help to improve the article.