Happy Earth Day! 50 years ago today on April 22, 1970, 20 million American citizens joined together to celebrate the first Earth Day. This began as a “teach in” on college campuses organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson and graduate student, Denis Hayes, and quickly became a national movement of Americans voicing their concern about mounting environmental destruction. These efforts did not go unnoticed, as Earth Day 1970 led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. In the years following, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
20 years later, Earth Day reached a global audience as Denis Hayes was approached to organize another Earth Day campaign. On this day 30 years ago, 200 million people from 141 different countries used their voice to bring environmental issues to the world stage. Earth Day 1990 provided support for enhanced recycling efforts worldwide and led to the planning of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Additionally, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in founding Earth Day.
The new millennium presented an opportunity to bring attention to global warming and push for clean energy. Dennis Hayes organized another successful campaign, inspiring 5,000 environmental groups from 184 countries to participate in Earth Day 2000. Another unique opportunity also presented itself in the planning of Earth Day 2000 – the power of the Internet! Local environmental organizations could publicize their events to a larger audience than ever before, inspiring hundreds of millions of people worldwide to participate.
Today, we celebrate Earth Day 2020 and invite you to join in the celebration as we commemorate this year’s theme – climate action! Climate change presents enormous global challenges, but also offers vast opportunity to join together in finding strategies to mitigate and adapt to current and anticipated global change. Here at the Southeast CASC, we work with natural and cultural resource managers to develop scientific information and build tools needed to help fish, wildlife, and ecosystems adapt to the impacts of changing climate and land use.
Organizers of Earth Day 2020 have adapted to the global pandemic by offering virtual events, performances, and presentations so people from around the world can stay involved. Earthday.org has set an ambitious goal of mobilizing one billion people to take part in today’s movement. We hope you will be a part of the record-breaking celebration of the planet that sustains us!
While most of the Southeast is under a stay-at-home order, there are still ways you can stay involved in Earth Day 2020 from the safety of your home:
- Earth Fair 2020 – NCSU Sustainability Office
- 50 Ways To Celebrate The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day – NCSU Sustainability Office
- Find a Digital Event Near You – Earthday.org
- Earth Day’s Gone Digital. Here’s Where to Find It – NY Times
- Earth Optimism – Smithsonian Institution
- Webinar: Cross-border Conservation with Secretary Salazar – The Salazar Center
- Triangle Earth Day Live – 350.org
- earthday.org. (2020, April 18). The History of Earth Day. Retrieved from https://www.earthday.org/history/
- History. (2009, October 27). Earth Day 2020. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/earth-day