Each year on April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, a global holiday where we collectively examine our impact on the environment, champion green practices and lifestyles, and plan for building a more sustainable future. While many people are aware of Earth Day in modern times, this holiday has a rich history of the shift in public perception and consciousness of our role on this planet.
In the decades leading up to Earth Day’s inception, industry was in full swing without the pressure of policy and public opinion to mitigate environmental consequences. There was little knowledge or public concern about the impacts that pollution has on the planet, or on the quality of human life. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring joined the New York Times bestseller list, and shared the dangers of pesticides that were widely used at the time. It also introduced the concept to a large audience that the condition of the environment and public health. In 1969, a spark from the train tracks set fire to Cleveland's Cuyahoga River, a common dump for chemical and other hazardous industrial waste, with the blazes reaching up to five stories high. This incident sparked the movement that created the Environmental Protection Agency. This was following another catastrophic incident that had occurred in January that year, which was a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.
The combination of these events and shifting public opinion led to Senator Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, creating the idea of Earth Day, which was modeled after the Vietnam anti-war protests taking place on college campuses around the nation. He recruited Dennis Hayes, a prominent activist, to help organize the movement, which was announced over national media outlets. As the teach-in, scheduled for April 22nd, gained traction through the media, the organizers renamed it to Earth Day. The first Earth Day in 1970 saw 20 million Americans take to the streets, attending rallies, and publicly demonstrating their concern for the environment and human impacts on it.
Since the first Earth Day over 50 years ago, this holiday has gained global attention and is celebrated all over the world. This year’s theme was Invest In Our Planet, calling on individuals, businesses, and governments to put capital into initiatives that will help to prevent further environmental degradation. How can you help vote for our planet with your money this year?