50 Years Of Earth Day: A Look At The Environmental Festival That Changed The World

Earth Day

Earth Day is upon us, and what an interesting way it’ll be celebrated this year with the current pandemic inhibiting so much of the world’s normal activities. With that in mind, our environmental consultants thought they’d explore the history of Earth Day and how the festival has evolved over the last 50 years.

Year One: The start of something extraordinary

The notion of Earth Day is simple – to alert and educate the world on the current state of the environment and how positive changes and actions must be taken and embraced to save it. The first Earth Day took place on the 22nd of April 1970 across North America. It saw around 20 million people take to the streets in what was more of a wide-scale protest than a festival.

The movement was originally organized by a young senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, who combined his growing concern for the US’s deteriorating environment with the fire and passion of the younger generations drive to protest (as he’d seen with the anti-war movement). With a Republican Congressman, Pete McCloskey, serving as his co-chairman, they recruited a young activist named Denis Hayes to organise teach-ins at college campuses.

April 22nd was chosen which fell between spring break and final exams to get the most out of attendance. This evolved into a nationwide event and was dubbed Earth Day which grabbed the media’s attention and led to the participation of 10% of the country’s population at the time.

Suddenly, rallies and protests were happening all over the country – from coast-to-coast – but all uniting under the one banner instead of being half-heartedly organised. Litter was picked up from the streets and recycled or loaded into loaned garbage trucks. Some more extravagant demonstrations were also staged such as burials of internal combustion engines and the execution of a Chevrolet via a sledgehammer. All antics aside, however, the movement seemed to fall into place across the country like pieces of a puzzle.

That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organised itself.”
– Taken from Gaylord Nelson’s book Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise.

The first Earth Day was a huge success and brought together people from all walks of life regardless of their background, political alignment or socioeconomic status. By the end of 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created in addition to the National Environmental Education Act (later revised in 1990) and Clean Air Act of 1970. The following years saw similar acts passed by congress which have directly contributed to the protection of millions of people from disease and death as well as hundreds of species from extinction.

20 years later: Global participation

In 1990, Hayes once again organised Earth Day which this time involved 200 million people across 141 countries. This gargantuan demonstration brought the festival onto the global stage and helped to pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Recycling was a big factor of the 1990 Earth Day where a large emphasis was placed on improving efforts around the world. This also marked the year when Earth Day became an annual festival.

2000 and beyond: The new millennium

The new millennium Earth Day demonstration featured 184 participating countries and 5000 environmental groups across them. Global warming and clean energy were the main points during the worldwide demonstration with participants demanding swift and effective action from world governments. With the power of the internet becoming more prevalent and accessible by people globally – organisation and participation were easier than ever and the numbers kept growing in the following two decades.

50 years of Earth Day

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the worldwide celebration and with the current pandemic hindering large-scale public protests and gatherings, the organisation has opted for an entirely online demonstration that will be live-streamed over 24-hours to everyone who wishes to participate around the world. This year the organisation is calling for all to use any tool at their disposal to change the way we look after our planet and our own health and safety.

This will feature video teach-ins, global conversations, performances and much more to entertain and educate the world on the importance of their mission: that everyone is responsible for the wellbeing of the planet and we can all make a difference no matter how small it may seem.

Looking for environmental consultants?

If you’re looking to start making a positive change, then it’s still businesses as normal here at Alpha Environmental. Our environmental consultants can employ a range of environmental services – whether you’ve acquired a new property and need it assessed or simply wish to test your backyards soil level.

Get in touch with our environmental consultants today by calling 1300 039 181. You may also contact us via the enquiry form on our website.