Happy Earth Day!!

Hooray, Hooray...it's finally Earth Day which happens to be my second favorite environmental holiday!  It also happens to be the largest secular holiday celebrated in the U.S. and the largest civic event in the world and I think that's a pretty awesome claim to fame ;)

Earth day began in 1970 making this year its 49th anniversary.  It broadens the base for support for environmental programs, rekindles public commitment and builds community activism around the world through a broad range of events and activities.  I LOVE that it is celebrated by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. It is a day that promotes conservation and concern reminding us that EVERYONE is responsible for protecting the planet. 

Here's a little Earth Day history for you:

In 1962, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring set the stage for the modern environmental movement.  The New York Times Bestseller sold more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries.  Up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.

In 1969, peace activist John McConnell proposed setting aside a day to raise awareness for environmental issues at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco.  He suggested using March 21, 1970, which was the first day of spring the following year, as the first Earth Day.  In strong support of McConnell's idea to celebrate the Earth, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors created an Earth Day Proclamation.  The tradition of ringing the United Nations Peace Bell at the moment of the March equinox started as a result and continues through today.

The man credited as Earth Day's founder is Gaylord Nelson.  McConnell had designed his Earth Day to foster unity and inspire appreciation for the planet we live on, whereas Nelson's focused primarily on protesting pollution.  Public opinion and various social factors lead the United Stets to choose to celebrate Earth Day on April 22 each year rather than on the equinox.  In September 1969, Senator Nelson proposed a national teach-in on the environment to send a message to Washington that public opinion was solidly behind a bold political agenda on environmental problems.  Inspired by the campus activism of the late 1960's, Nelson employed a team of experienced students to help him respond to the immediate and overwhelming public excitement for a national day on the environment.  However, Nelson insisted that the first Earth Day's activities be created not by organizers in Washington, but by individuals and groups in their own communities.  As a result of this empowering vision, 1 in 10 Americans participated in the first Earth Day, drawing extensive attention from the media and jump starting an era of bold environmental legislation. 

In 1970, 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy and sustainable environment.  Coast to coast rallies were organized and groups that had been protesting toxic dumps, pesticides, the loss of wildrerness, the extinction of wildlife, oil spills and other ecological issues finally realized they were all trying to fight the same battle.  A super unique aspect of Earth Day 1970 was that it brought together republicans and democrats, the rich and the poor, and people who had seemingly different beliefs and backgrounds.

Earth Day 1970 was viewed as a national one-day focus on the environment.  Out of that day came the beginnings of the modern environmental movement.  And, some of the great environmental organizations were formed as a result of Earth Day activities.  Agencies like the DEC and EPA were formed, so clearly it was much more that a one-day flash in the pan.  It was a very fundamental change - the beginning of  a new era.  You just have to look how far the country has come in the last 48 years, when weve had some of the strongest environmental laws on the books. 

Earth Day sparked the creation of several organizations.  Greenpeace, an activist organization, was founded in 1971 and became a voice against such issues as nuclear power, global warming, and whaling.  Today, they campaign to save the arctic, stop climate change, protect oceans & forests and support sustainable agriculture. 

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution.  Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to sweeping amendments in 1972.  As amended in 1972, the law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) and itt was passed to set limits on the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waterways.

In 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed to protect the animals and the ecosystems that they live in.  THe ESA is very important, because it saves our native fish, plants and wildlife from going extinct.  Once they are gone, they are gone forever and there is no going back.  Losing even a single species can have disastrous impacgs on the rest of the ecosystem, because the effects will be felt throughout the entire food chain.  From providing cures to deadly diseases to maintaining natural ecosystems and improving overall quality of life, the benefits of preserving threatened and endangered species are invaluable.

Although the U.S. turned over a new and greener leaf in 1970 it was on the first day of 1980 that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) became the law of the land.  This law is one of out Nation's fundamental chapters; it is a pledge from each generation to the next to protect and enhance the quality of the environment. 

In 1980, Gaylord Nelson lost his bid for a fourth term as Wisconsin senator and was appointed counselor for an environmental group called the Wilderness Society.  He served as a counselor, board member and spokesperson for the Wilderness Society until his death in 2005.  The Wilderness Society protects wild lands which give us: clean air and water, abundant wildlife, havens for recreation, solitude and learning, important sources of renewable energy, vital natural resources that must be managed wisely, and a foundation for a healthy planet.  Since 1935, the Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect nearly 110 million acres of wilderness in 44 states and has been a the forefront of nearly every major public lands victory.

From 1970 to 1990, Earth Day focused primarily on a variety of events, mobilizing individuals and organizations from Africa to China to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the planet.  As its 20th anniversary approached, in 1990, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes, Earth Day's first national coordinator, to organize another big campaign.  For the first time, Earth Day went "Global", mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental awareness onto the world stage.  Earth Day is an occasion to draw attention to current local and global environmental problems and to discuss common sense solutions.  Earth Day 1990 give a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit held in Rio d Janeiro. 

As of its 25th anniversary Congress had passed 40 major environmental laws addressing issues of clean air, clean water, energy conservation, hazardous waste, and pesticide control.  Dozens of public land bills had also been enacted to designate or expand wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, national parks, and wildlife refuges.  Additionally, more than 80 percent of Americans had come to regard themselves as environmentalists by this point. 

It was in 1995 that President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor given to civilians in the U.S., for his role as Earth Day founder. 

Int he year 2000, the 30th anniversary of Earth Day was celebrated by several hundred million people spread out in 184 countries.  They celebreated the progress that had been made since 1970 and raised awareness on current environmental and public health challenges.  The theme was "clean energy".  Earth Day 2000 combined the big picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990.  It used the Internet to organize activists, but also featured a talking drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, and hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC.  Earth Day 2000 sent world leaders the loud and clear message that citizens around the world wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. 

In 2004, John McConnell, who played a vital role in advocating for the environment as an unofficial founder of Earth Day and co-founder of the Earth Society Foundation, rang the UN Peace Bell on the spring equinox. 

Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest to date across the globe.  More locally, over 40,000 people attended the Earth Day celebration held at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois.  This set the record for the largest single-day zoo attendance.  The theme for Earth Day 2007 was "Be kind to the Earth - starting from saving resource".  Individuals and environmental organizations were urged to protect our vital resources such as land, air and water. 

In 2008, the Earth Day theme "Trees Please" was chosen to inspire residents to learn more about our local canopy cover, and how it has changed over the last 30 years.  The Canopy Project is supported by partners, sponsors, and individuals like you.  They work with on-the-ground tree planting organizations around the world to ensure our trees are reaching people who need them most.  Over the past few years the canopy project has planted over 1.5 million trees in 18 countries.  The goal is to plant 7.8 million trees by 2020. 

In 2009, the United Nations renamed Earth Day and now calls it International Mother Earth Day.  That name doesn't appear to be catching on in the U.S.  It was in 2009 that the Green Generation campaign was started and 100,000 people celebrated Earth Day at the National Mall in Washington DC. 

In 2010, to commemorate the 40th Earth Day celebration, a climate rally and concert were heald at Washington DC's National Mall.  From climate rallies to engaging civil leaders in plans to build a green economy, more than one billion people around the world took action making it a turning popint for the environmental and climate change movements.  The Earth Day Network worked with more than 22,000 partners worldwide to move climate and other environmental civic actions forward creating the largest global response ever to climate change, and an international environmental network of nearly one million people that protects our collective capacity to fight for solutions.

In 2011 there was an enormous outpouring of support for the environmental movement, as the 100 millionth Act of Green was completed.  Earth Day Network's A Billion Acts of Green - the largest environmental service campaign in the world - is steadily building commitments by individuals, organizations, businesses and governments to protect the planet.  A Billion Acts of Green inspires and rewards both simple individual acts and larger organizational initiatives that reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.  Since it's enormous success Earth Day Network has upped its goal and is well on its way to completing 3 billion acts of green. 

More than 1 billion people in 192 countries took part in the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day in 2012.  Communities everywhere stood united in their effort to "Mobilize the Earth" with one voice and one message.  The Earth Day 2012 campaign was designed to provide people with the opportunity to unite their voices in a call for a sustainable future and direst them toward quantifiable outcomes, using, vehicles such as petitions, the Billion Acts of Green campaign, and events around the world.  Earth Day 2012 acted as a launch pad for growing the environmental movement and put forth a bold declaration demanding immediate action to secure renewable energy for all and a sustainable future for our planet.  The movement was comprised of individuals of every age from all corners of the Earth, and called upon local, national and international leaders to put an end to fossil fuel subsidies, embrace renewable energy technology, improve energy efficiency, and make energy universally accessible. 

In 2013 more than one billion people around the world took part in the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day.  From Beijing to Cairo, Melbourne to London, Madrid to Johannesburg, Rio to New York, communities everywhere voiced their concerns for the planet, and took action to help protect tit.  Climate change can seem like a remote problem for our leaders, but the fact is that it's already impacting real people, animals and beloved places.  These Faces of Climate Change are multiplying everyday.  Fortunately, other Faces of Climate Change are multiplying too: those stepping up to do something about it.

Earth Day Network declared 2014 "The Year of The Climate Voter".  The goal of this years Earth Day campaign was to reach 2 billion acts of green and encourage individuals to fight against carbon emissions and climate change.  Featured campaigns included e-waste recycling, the canopy project, protection of endangered species such as the Asian elephant, and the green schools campaign.  Being a climate voter means that you care about climate change and you want all political parties to do something about it.  It means that you want real action and you are prepared to use your vote to get it. 

In 2015, we celebrated the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.  It was the year in which economic growth and sustainability joined hands, the year in which world leaders finally passed a binding climate change treaty, and the year in which citizens and organizations divest from fossil fuels and put their money into renewable energy.  Progress was redefined. 

In 2016, the theme for Earth Day was "Trees for the Earth".  As part of this campaign donations of $1 can help plant 1 tree.  Read more about it here: https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/reforestation/  In 2017, the theme for Earth Day was "Environmental and Climate Literacy".  Read more about it here: https://www.earthday.org/campaigns/education/global-environmental-climate-literacy-campaign/.  In 2018, the theme for Earth Day was "End Plastic Pollution" and this years theme is "Protect Our Species".  Read more about it here https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2019-protect-our-species/

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