On Monday, more than 1 billion people all over the world celebrated Earth Day. This makes Earth Day “the largest secular civic event in the world” according to EDN. That’s quite an accomplishment but no big surprise if you know the history of how Earth Day was founded.

There were many factors that led up to the creation of Earth Day. Many people believe that the 1962 bestseller Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was a big contributor. In the novel, Carson addresses and brings to light the dangers of pesticides on American countrysides. Seven years after Carson’s book was published, a fire broke out on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. This fire brought attention to the dangers of improper chemical waste disposal. Prior to this fire, factories were pumping pollutants into rivers, lakes, and the air with little to no legal repercussions.

The idea of a national day dedicated to raising awareness for pollution issues was originally introduced by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in 1970, and it was a sensational success from the jump. Earth Day 1970 is considered to be the kick-off to what is now called the “Environmental Decade”. Rallies were held in Chicago, Los Angeles, and several other American cities. There were speeches and performances by celebrities all over the country. In New York City, Mayor John Lindsay even closed off parts of Fifth Ave and closed down traffic for hours. Senator Nelson wanted to shake up the political spectrum to make the environment a national issue and he definitely succeeded.

He didn’t do it alone, though. Dennis Hayes, a known activist who had served as Student President at Stanford University, was nominated as Earth Day’s National Coordinator. Hayes coordinated events with the help from Nelson’s staff and large groups of student volunteers. It was so successful that Congress even went into recess in order to allow its members to speak at several different Earth Day Events.

With all that being said, Earth Day 1970 wasn’t just rallies and speeches. The Water Quality Improvement Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act were just a few important pieces of legislation that were passed as a direct result of the movement. On top of that, the Environmental Protection Agency was also formed as a result of Earth Day 1970. The EPA is now in charge of protecting human health and the natural environment. The impact of Earth Day only grew when it went global in 1990 with over 200 million people participating in more than 140 nations. The holiday is now a global celebration that’s sometimes extended into Earth Week.

This weekend, Earth Day events are being held in Lincoln and Bellevue for those who would like to get involved and learn more. J-Tech Solar will be at both events talking to folks about the benefits of sustainable energy.

Lincoln Earth Day
Saturday April 27th
10:00-3:00pm
Union Plaza

Sarpy County Earth Day
Sunday, April 28
12pm – 4pm
Bellevue Public Schools Lied Activity Center