WASHINGTON, D.C. – People across the globe are celebrating Earth Day on Thursday. But what’s the history behind the holiday?
Well, the holiday has roots in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That’s when the modern environmental movement began.
Inspired by students in the anti-war movement, former Sen. Gaylord Nelson and others helped to organize the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, according EarthDay.org. It inspired about 20 million Americans to come out and demonstrate against the impacts of industrial development.
The first Earth Day helped lead to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of important environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Education Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Later, in 1990, organizers mobilized nearly 200 million people in 141 countries to celebrate Earth Day and bring environmental issues to the world stage. EarthDay.org says it gave a significant boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Since then, activists have continued to fight for the protection of the planet. Each Earth Day, people around the world mark the holiday as a day of action to change human behavior and create policy change, whether it’s local, national or global.
And as the effects of climate change become more apparent, the younger generation led by people like Greta Thunberg is demanding greater action to protect the planet and its inhabitants.
President Joe Biden is also making moves to help the U.S. limit its impact on Earth. Thursday, he opened a global Earth Day summit with an ambitious pledge to cut at least in half the climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes that the nation pumps out.
Since we’re still in midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re limited to what we can do to celebrate the holiday. But there are still ways you can mark the holiday while staying safe. Click here for some ideas. EarthDay.org also has dozens of tips.