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Today, in the year 2020, we mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Every year, April 22 marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

Lets look at the history of Earth Day:

This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012.

(Image: © NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring)


Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who thought of the idea to create a national day that focuses on the environment. Nelson got this idea after witnessing the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. Nelson recruited Denis Hayes as national coordinator, and persuaded U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey to be co-chairman. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media, and later, with a staff of 85, chose April 22 as the date.

On April 22, 1970, 10% of the total population of the United States at that time took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Reflecting on the 10th anniversary of Earth Day, Nelson wrote in an article for EPA Journal.


Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1995, Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton for his role in founding Earth Day, raising awareness of environmental issues, and promoting environmental action.


As the millennium approached, 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reached out to hundreds of millions of people. Earth Day 2000 built both global and local conversations, leveraging the power of the Internet to organize activists around the world, while also featuring a drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, DC for a First Amendment Rally.

Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders a loud and clear message: Citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on global warming and clean energy.


Earth Day 2010 came at a time of great challenge for the environmental community to combat the cynicism of climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians, a disinterested public, and a divided environmental community with the collective power of global environmental activism.

In the face of these challenges, Earth Day prevailed and Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a major moment for global action for the environment. Earth Day Network brought 250,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally and introduced a global tree planting initiative that has since grown into The Canopy Project. Earth Day Network also launched A Billion Acts of Green® — the world’s largest environmental service project — and engaged 75,000 partners in 192 countries in observing Earth Day.


Since 2010, Earth Day Network has planted tens of millions of trees with The Canopy Project, working worldwide to strengthen communities. In the coming year, Earth Day Network has a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees — one tree for every person on earth — in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.

On Earth Day in 2016, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked world leaders to sign the Paris Climate Agreement aimed at keeping planet warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.5 degrees Fahrenheit). (Then U.S president Barack Obama signed the treaty that day).

Today, more than 1 billion people across the globe participate in Earth Day activities, according to EDN.

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day Network is launching an ambitious set of goals to shape the future of 21st century environmentalism. Learn more here. Source

“The History of Earth Day.” Earth Day,

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