April 30th, 2014
Every year on April 22, we celebrate the environment, and our home – Planet Earth.
The Story Behind Earth Day
In 1970, the Beatles released their last album, Richard Nixon was President, and a war raged in Vietnam. Few, if any, environmental regulations existed, as massive V8 engines guzzled lead gas and factories pumped out smoke and pollutants without a second thought. Although protecting the environment was not at the forefront of national debate, Americans supported national wildlife refuges and national parks. And with the help of books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring that rang the alarm about the decline in wildlife species caused by modern day pollution, the groundwork had been laid for what was to become an environmental movement.
We have Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., to thank for what we know now as Earth Day. In 1969, Nelson had witnessed the terrible impacts of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA. He was also inspired by students who were protesting the Vietnam War, and realized that if he could direct some of that same energy toward environmental protection, he could push the issue onto the national agenda.
Thanks in large part to Nelson’s efforts to galvanize a grassroots movement, on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to promote a healthy sustainable environment – and the first Earth Day was born. That first celebration achieved what today would be considered a rare feat – support from both Republicans and Democrats, men and women, rich and poor, big businesses and blue collar workers. Americans from all walks of life came together with a shared interest in protecting the planet, and the results were historic: the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. These laws continue to guide how our nation protects and conserves land, water, air and wildlife today and for future generations. Earth Day serves as a great reminder that despite our differences, we still share a common desire to protect our planet.