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  • Steve Taylor

The History of Earth Day

by WillowWood School's Steve Taylor

Earth Day is a powerful expression of global solidarity and concern for the environment. Celebrated annually on April 22nd, it’s a day when citizens around the world engage in activities that contribute to the protection and preservation of our planet. It’s an opportunity to reflect on our environmental impact and to commit to making sustainable choices that will ensure the well-being of Earth for current and future generations.

History of Earth Day

The 1950s and 1960s were a time when industrial progress took precedence over environmental concerns, leading to rampant air and water pollution. This "second industrial revolution" was a catastrophic time for the environment as no regulations or laws existed to curb it. The publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962 was a turning point, raising public awareness about the environment and the links between pollution and public health.

The idea for Earth Day was proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, the 3rd worst oil spill in American waters in history. Over 100,000 barrels of oil (15.9 million litres!) were released and over 48 km of Santa Barbara’s coastline was affected after a blowout on an oil platform, 10 km from shore.

Platform A, Dos Cuadras Offshore Oil Field

Along with environmental advocate, Denis Hayes, Senator Nelson organized the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, which saw 20 million Americans demonstrating for a healthy, sustainable environment.

Some call the first Earth Day, the real beginning of the modern environmental movement as it led to the development of several laws, including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency on December 2nd, 1970.

Denis Hayes Senator Gaylord Nelson Rachel Carsons

Significance of Earth Day

Year after year, Earth Day underscores our duty as environmental stewards. It prompts reflection on our ecological footprint and encourages sustainable choices for the benefit of current and future generations. Beyond mere commemoration, Earth Day inspires collective action against environmental threats, fostering a sense of unity across diverse communities.


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