How To Learn the History of Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22.  It began in 1970.  In that year, a Senator named Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed a day of protest concerning the environment. He asked for protesters to peacefully let their views be made known concerning the dangers of the gasoline guzzling cars most of America drove at the time.  A number of other environmental issues also concerned him, such as the huge factories that emitted large amounts of pollution into the air and sewage and other run-off which was often dumped into the fresh water supply.

A man named Dennis Hayes was asked to be the coordinator of the event, a job he gladly took. Together with his small staff, he organized the first rally. On April 22, 1970, twenty million Americans gathered together across the United States to voice their desire for a cleaner and healthier environment. Among the protesters were thousands of college students and University groups; their main focus was to let others know about the dangers of things like oil spills into the ocean and bodies of fresh water, the pollution which factories and power plants were emitting into the air, and the fact the our wildlife and forests were in danger. They also wanted to bring attention to the fact that sewage was continually running into the drinking water supply, and how the use of pesticides held dangers not only for humans, but also the animal world.

The first Earth Day protest had a very good outcome. It brought together leaders of many different political parties, all of whom were in agreement that the country's environmental policies needed to be changed as quickly as possible. That protest also led to the creation of the first Environmental Protection Agency; they quickly implemented acts for cleaner air, and water, and the Endangered Species Act. Without this, many animals that we see today would probably have died out by now because of the destruction or pollution of their habitats.

Gaylord Nelson, the Senator who started the rally, was given a medal for doing so. It was the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor given to a citizen not in the military.

Earth Day has been celebrated annually ever since; in 1990, another group of environmental leaders asked Mr. Nelson to organize yet another campaign, an offer which he accepted. For this Earth Day, Americans asked other nations to join in. They did, to the tune of over one hundred and forty countries banding together for the rally. Nearly two hundred million people came together to try to institute even more environmental reforms. They also introduced widespread recycling, which is now a way of life for just about everyone. This rally also led to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit meeting.

Earth Day is still going strong, and has helped lead the way to a cleaner environment for many generations to come.


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