April 22, 1970 was the very first Earth Day celebration in the United States. For forty years now people have learned about appreciating the Earth’s natural environment. It was initially sparked by the massive oil spill in 1969 off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Senator Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, incensed by the environmental damage, spearheaded Earth Day.
Senator Nelson first proposed a national teach-in on the environment to be observed by every university campus in the U. S. He announced his idea in the fall of 1969 and incorporated a new non-profit organization, environmental Teach-In, Inc. Denis Hayes, a Harvard graduate student and campus activist, assembled a staff in Washington D.C. and directed the effort to organize the United States. The first Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. In 1970, about 20 million people became involved in the first events.
Media coverage of that first Earth Day featured a one-hour prime time CBS news special report. The commentator was the famous Walter Cronkite. Pete Seeger was a keynote speaker and performer at the event held in Washington D.C. New York City mayor John Lindsay closed Fifth Avenue to traffic in honor of the day and Central Park was used as a focus for the demonstrations. The crowd was estimated at one million.
In 2010, on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, more than 1 billion people in 190 different countries participated in Earth Day activities. Earth Day 2010 was seen by some as a turning point for the environmental movement on climate change and building a green economy. www.EarthDay.org is one of the largest international environmental networks created in 2010.
The Earth Day Network was founded on the premise that all people have a moral right to a healthy and sustainable environment. Its mission is to broaden the environmental movement worldwide. They utilize a combination of education, public policy and activism campaigns. It is affiliated with more than 20,000 partners and organizations throughout the world.
The goal of the Earth Day Network in 2010 is to reach a Billion Acts of Green by Earth Day 2011. The purpose is to demonstrate to world leaders the global commitment to environmental change leading up to the Rio + 20 Summit in 2012. Over one million students outside the U.S. participated in school greenings from community-wide clean ups to creating school gardens and studying environmental curricula. With the Peace Corps, the Earth Day Network implemented environmental education programs, tree plantings, and recycling seminars in rural areas in:
- The Ukraine
- The Philippines
In China, there were 10 universities that participated in a month-long effort to reduce the carbon footprint of their communities. Students made changes in their lifestyle such as recycling and using pubic transportation. They set a good example for others in their neighborhoods.
In Morocco, the government presented a National Charter for the Environment and Sustainable Development. This is the first commitment of its kind in that part of the world. The Kingdom of Morocco also promised to plant a million trees in 2010. The President of Mozambique led a countrywide tree planting initiative in schools in his nation.
The Earth Day Network also worked in Afghanistan with village leaders to educate them about environmental sustainability practices, such as recycling and alternative energy. The Earth Day Network is significantly lowering global carbon emissions.
In the United States, there was a Climate Rally on the National Mall in Washington D.C. More than 150,000 activists attended with the hope of getting Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation in 2010. The Earth Day network provided the buses from 10 East Coast and Midwest cities. It was a nine-hour event that featured more than 70 high profile speakers.
Earth Day 2010 saw the Earth Day Network triple its e-mail list to over 900,000 subscribers. From a simple beginning in 1970, Earth Day has grown substantially. The most memorable event of Earth Day 2010 was the darkening of city lights for one hour across the globe. Earth Day is for education. From education comes positive change.
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