Think you know everything there is to know about Earth Day? Think again! Here are five interesting facts about Earth Day and its history.
Born of Hippie Culture
Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Protesting was a favorite activity of young people in the 1960s, though the main thing they protested was war.
Rachel Carson’s famous book, Silent Spring, brought environmental issues to America’s attention. The founder of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson capitalized on the willingness of America’s youth to protest and take action. Hippie culture ultimately made the first Earth Day a success with 20 million people participating (Earthday.org).
A Global Affair
Earth Day has gotten huge since its beginnings in 1970. Earth Day went global in 1990, with around 200 million people in 140 nations participating.
Today, 174 nations participate in Earth Day activities. Approximately one billion people are involved. According to the Earth Day Network, it is the “largest secular civic event in the world” (History.com).
Why April 22?
Earth Day falls on April 22 each year, which happens to be Vladimir Lenin (founder of the Soviet Union)’s birthday. Some speculate that this is not mere coincidence. Alexander Marriott wrote that Lenin and environmentalists are similar in that they both seek to “carefully ration” liberty and private property (Capitalism Magazine).
Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network refuted the Lenin rumor. Rogers maintains that April 22, 1970 was chosen as the first Earth Day because it happened to be a Wednesday — the best part of the week for an environmental rally (National Geographic).
Founder Awarded Medal of Freedom
In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Earth Day’s founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson. Clinton said of Nelson that he “inspired us to remember that the stewardship of our natural resources is the stewardship of the American Dream.” The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor that a civilian can receive in the United States.
Senator Nelson passed away in 2005, at the age of 89 (New York Times)
Another Earth Day
The United Nations recognizes a day separate from the Earth Day we are familiar with. This “other” day is called International Mother Earth Day and also occurs on April 22. It was founded in 2009. This day has similar goals to Earth Day in that it is all about working to protect our environment.
According to the UN, International Mother Earth Day does not seek to replace regular Earth Day; but rather to reinforce it.