Earth Day: 5 interesting things about the environmentalist holiday

First celebrated in 1970

Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005), a former United States senator who helped to launch Earth Day in 1970.
Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005), a former United States senator who helped to launch Earth Day in 1970. | Public Domain

Earth Day was first celebrated in the United States on April 22, 1970, being the result of efforts launched by Democrat U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and activist Denis Hayes.

“Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Nelson wanted to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution,” noted the Earth Day Network, which oversees the observance. 

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“Senator Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media, and persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair.”

Reportedly, the first observance involved approximately 20 million Americans — at the time, about 10% of the population — to attend events across the country, namely “teach-ins.”

“Earth Day 1970 made it clear that we could summon the public support, the energy, and commitment to save our environment,” wrote Nelson in April 1980.

“And while the struggle is far from over, we have made substantial progress. In the ten years since 1970 much of the basic legislation needed to protect the environment has been enacted into law.”

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