History of Earth Day

April 22, 1970 from the Earth Day Network

What is the history of Earth Day?

Earth Day was a unified response to an environment in crisis — oil spills, smog, rivers so polluted they literally caught fire.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet.

The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

What was the result?

The first Earth Day in 1970 launched a wave of action, including the passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States. The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were created in response to the first Earth Day in 1970, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many countries soon adopted similar laws.

Earth Day has become a global event each year, and more than a billion people in 192 countries take part each year in what is the largest civic- focused day of action in the world.

It has become a day—sometimes a week— of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures.

Earth Day holds major international significance: In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day when the historic Paris Agreement on climate change was signed into force.

In 2020, the 50th anniversary, National and international Earth Day groups planned events in the United States and around the world that were going to bring millions out in support of Climate Action now.

The realities of the pandemic have put that all on hold.

For now, we must stand up first to restore the health and well-being of our people.

But it does not mark an end to activism. And when we can, we will step back in to the fight to protect our planet.