In 1969, activist John McConnell proposed that there should be a day set aside to promote peace and the preservation of our Earth. This proposal was adopted some months later and supported by the United Nations. A month later, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a U.S. focused Earth Day to be celebrated each year on April 22nd. Denis Hayes, as national coordinator, was the guy that made it happen. The first Earth Day became a day for peaceful demonstrations and massive education outreach with the sole purpose of environmental awareness and reform. The celebration brought 20 million people together — all ages, genders, ethnicities and political affiliations — to advocate for the health of and to enjoy the beauty of nature. Twenty years later, Hayes grew Earth Day internationally to reach 141 nations. Today Earth Day is celebrated in 193 countries globally.
The idea of environmental activism is a polarizing subject in politics. This is something I understand only in so much as people have a tendency to argue. I was raised in Wisconsin. My uncle and father were business partners in a field which was 95% Republican. The city I grew up in was a mill town, unionized and, generally, Democratic. Wisconsin as a state was swing — truly issue governed. But environment was an everybody issue. I had friends whose food source for the year depended on the deer they hunted and consumed. The mill in my town directly affected the water in the Fox River and the air quality we all breathed every day. Our little city was surrounded by one of the highest concentrations of dairy farms in the country. Clean air, water, and land was important for all the people, political affiliations not withstanding. In 1969, the United Nations recognized the need to focus on the health of planet Earth, yet pollution has continued to increase.These are really important issues — not somebody else’s problem, but mine, and one that directly impacts my friends and family, and yours. So do something. Pick up an extra piece of trash. Buy healthier cleaning agents for use in your house. Invest in Solar or wind power. Turn off your car and bike or walk. And make your voice heard.
Check out our series of posts on ideas for Earth Day Family Activities.
Read a book to your child from our list of Earth Day Children’s Books.
Here is a link of organizations working for environmental change, but there are many more people doing good work. Find one and volunteer or donate or both.
The first Earth Day occurred in 1970, prior to my birth. The idea proposed by McConnell and championed by people like Nelson and Hayes has changed the world, but each of us is responsible for solving the problems and nurturing our home for generations to come.