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Unofficial Earth Day flag, by John McConnell: the Blue Marble on a blue field.

Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It is on 22 April. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) as an environmental teach-in in 1970 and is celebrated in many countries every year. The first Earth Day was in 1970. Earth Day is spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.

The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year on the March equinox, which is often 20 March. This is a tradition which was founded by peace activist John McConnell in 1969. The United Nations first celebrated Earth Day on the March equinox in 1971. This was also the first time ever that the United Nations celebrated Earth Day. The Earth Day on the March equinox was also in 1970.

Earth Day is similar to World Environment Day.

Contents

The First Earth Day

U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin announced his idea for a nationwide teach-in day on the environment in a speech to a fledgling conservation group in Seattle on 20 September 1969, and then again six days later in Atlantic City to a meeting of the United Auto Workers. Senator Nelson hoped that a grassroots outcry about environmental issues might prove to Washington, D.C. just how distressed Americans were in every constituency. Denis Hayes was the principal organizer of the first Earth Day nationwide.

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Conceptual development

According to Senator Nelson, the moniker "Earth Day" was "an obvious and logical name" suggested by "a number of people" in the fall of 1969, including, he writes, both "a friend of mine who had been in the field of public relations" and "a New York advertising executive," Julian Koenig.[1] Koenig was on Nelson's organizing committee in 1969. April 22 also happened to be Koenig's birthday, and as "Earth Day" rhymed with "birthday," the idea came to him easily, he said.[2][3] Other names circulated during preparations—Nelson himself continued to call it the National Environment Teach-In, but press coverage of the event was "practically unanimous" in its use of "Earth Day," so the name stuck.[1]

On September 29, 1969, in a long, front-page New York Times article, Gladwin Hill wrote:

"Rising concern about the "environmental crisis" is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental problems, analogous to the mass demonstrations on Vietnam, is being planned for next spring, when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."[4]

In the winter of 1969 a group of students met at Columbia University to hear Denis Hayes talk about his plans for Earth Day. Among the group were Fred Kent, Pete Grannis, and Kristin and William Hubbard. This New York group agreed to head up the New York City part of the national movement. Fred Kent took the lead in renting an office and recruiting volunteers. "The big break came when Mayor Lindsay agreed to shut down 5th Avenue for the event. A giant cheer went up in the office on that day," according to Kristin Hubbard (now Kristin Alexandre). 'From that time on we used Mayor Lindsay's offices and even his staff. I was Speaker Coordinator but had tremendous help from Lindsay staffer Judith Crichton."

Rollout and ongoing development

On 22 April 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Approximately 20 million Americans participated.

Hayes and his staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage, Earth Day on April 22 in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focusing on global warming and pushing for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the Internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 came around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.

Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.[citation needed]

Earth Day Network

Earth Day Network was founded by Denis Hayes and the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970 and by other national organizers, including Pam Lippe, to promote environmental activism and year-round progressive action, domestically and internationally. Earth Day Network members include NGOs, quasi-governmental agencies, local governments, activists, and others. Earth Day Network members focus on environmental education; local, national, and global policies; public environmental campaigns; and organizing national and local earth day events to promote activism and environmental protection. The international network reaches over 19,000 organizations in 192 countries, while the domestic program engages 10,000 groups and over 100,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental-protection activities throughout the year.[5]

In observance of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, EDN created multiple global initiatives, ranging from a Global Day of Conversation with mayors worldwide, focusing on bringing green investment and building a green economy; Athletes for the Earth Campaign that brings Olympic, professional, and every day athletes' voices to help promote a solution to climate change; a Billion Acts of Green Campaign which will aggregate the millions of environmental service commitments that individuals and organizations around the world make each year[6]; to Artist for the Earth, a campaign the involves hundreds of arts institutions and artists worldwide to create environmental awareness. EDN expects at least 1.5 billion people to participate in these global events and programs.

EDN has helped create Earth Day organizations worldwide.

Earth Day Canada

Earth Day Canada logo

Earth Day Canada (EDC), a national environmental charity founded in 1990, provides Canadians with the practical knowledge and tools they need to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2004, it was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America, for its innovative year-round programs and educational resources, by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the world's largest association of environmental educators. In 2008, it was chosen as Canada’s “Outstanding Non-profit Organization” by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. EDC regularly partners with thousands of organizations in all parts of Canada. EDC hosts a suite of six environmental programs: Ecokids, EcoMentors, EcoAction Teams, Community Environment Fund, Hometown Heroes and the Toyota Earth Day Scholarship Program.

History of the Equinox Earth Day

The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy is that moment in time (not a whole day) when the center of the Sun can be observed to be directly "above" the Earth's equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. In most cultures, the equinoxes and solstices are considered to start or separate the seasons.

John McConnell in front of his home in Denver, Colorado with the Earth Flag he designed.

John McConnell [7] first introduced the idea of a global holiday called "Earth Day" at the 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. Celebrations were held in various cities, such as San Francisco and in Davis, California with a multi-day street party. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell's global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:

May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.[8]

Secretary General Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies on the March equinox in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox (the United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22 global event). Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:

"EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.
EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate." [9]

At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe Earth Day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, which was donated by Japan to the United Nations.[10] Over the years, celebrations have occurred in various places worldwide at the same time as the UN celebration. On March 20, 2008, in addition to the ceremony at the United Nations, ceremonies were held in New Zealand, and bells were sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo and many other locations. The equinox Earth Day at the UN is organized by the Earth Society Foundation.[11]

22 April Observances

Growing Eco-activism before Earth Day 1970

Project Survival, an early environmentalism-awareness education event, was held at Northwestern University on January 23, 1970. This was the first of several events held at university campuses across the United States in the lead-up to the first Earth Day. Also, Ralph Nader began talking about the importance of ecology in 1970.

The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US, in both theory and practice. It was in the mid-1960s that Congress passed the sweeping Wilderness Act, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked, "Who speaks for the trees?" Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, New York, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her bestseller, Silent Spring (1962).

Earth Day 1970

Responding to widespread environmental degradation, Gaylord Nelson, a United States Senator from Wisconsin, called for an environmental teach-in, or Earth Day, to be held on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and Earth Day is now observed on April 22 each year by more than 500 million people and several national governments in 175 countries.[citation needed]

Senator Nelson, an environmental activist, took a leading role in organizing the celebration, hoping to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda. He modeled it on the highly effective Vietnam War teach-ins of the time.[12] The proposal for Earth Day was first proposed in a prospectus to JFK written by Fred Dutton.[13] However, Nelson decided against much of Dutton's top-down approach, favoring a decentralized, grassroots effort in which each community shaped their action around local concerns.

Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after the horrific oil spill off the coast in 1969. Outraged by the devastation and Washington political inertia, Nelson proposed a national teach-in on the environment to be observed by every university campus in the U.S.[14]

I am convinced that all we need to do to bring an overwhelming insistence of the new generation that we stem the tide of environmental disaster is to present the facts clearly and dramatically. To marshal such an effort, I am proposing a national teach-in on the crisis of the environment to be held next spring on every university campus across the Nation. The crisis is so imminent, in my opinion, that every university should set aside 1 day in the school year-the same day across the Nation-for the teach-in.[14]

Senator Nelson selected Denis Hayes, a Harvard University graduate student, as the national coordinator of activities in a non-profit group, Environmental Teach-In, Inc. Hayes said he wanted Earth Day to "bypass the traditional political process."[15] Garrett DuBell compiled and edited The Environmental Handbook the first guide to the Environmental Teach-In. Its symbol was a green Greek letter theta, "the dead theta".

One of the organizers of the event said:

"We're going to be focusing an enormous amount of public interest on a whole, wide range of environmental events, hopefully in such a manner that it's going to be drawing the interrelationships between them and, getting people to look at the whole thing as one consistent kind of picture, a picture of a society that's rapidly going in the wrong direction that has to be stopped and turned around.

"It's going to be an enormous affair, I think. We have groups operating now in about 12,000 high schools, 2,000 colleges and universities and a couple of thousand other community groups. It's safe to say I think that the number of people who will be participating in one way or another is going to be ranging in the millions."[16]

The nationwide event included opposition to the Vietnam War on the agenda, but this was thought to detract from the environmental message. Pete Seeger was a keynote speaker and performer at the event held in Washington DC. Paul Newman and Ali McGraw attended the event held in New York City.[17]

The most notable organization to protest the event was the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Results of Earth Day 1970

Earth Day proved popular in the United States and around the world. The first Earth Day had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States. More importantly, it "brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform."[18]

Senator Nelson stated that Earth Day "worked" because of the response at the grassroots level. Twenty-million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated.[19] He directly credited the first Earth Day with persuading U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. Many important laws were passed by Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, wild lands and the ocean, and the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.[20]

It is now observed in 175 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, according to whom Earth Day is now "the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year."[21] Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.[20]

Significance of 22 April

  • Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an "environmental teach-in." He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22. Asked whether he had purposely chosen Lenin's 100th birthday, Nelson explained that with only 365 days a year and 3.7 billion people in the world, every day was the birthday of ten million living people. “On any given day, a lot of both good and bad people were born,” he said. "A person many consider the world’s first environmentalist, Saint Francis of Assisi, was born on April 22."[22]
  • April 21 was the birthday of John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club. This was not lost on organizers who thought April 22 was Muir's birthday.[citation needed]
  • April 22, 1970 was the 100th birthday of Vladimir Lenin. Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was "a Communist trick," and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."[15] J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations.[23] The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin's centenary still persists in some quarters,[24][25] although Lenin was never noted as an environmentalist. Some far-left groups have also stated that they "influenced" Nelson to pick April 22 during the initial organizing period, but it seems not to have been a conscious decision of his.[citation needed]
  • April 22 is also the birthday of Julius Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day, a national tree-planting holiday started in 1872. Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska in 1885, to be permanently observed on April 22. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation "the most common day for the state observances is the last Friday in April . . . but a number of state Arbor Days are at other times in order to coincide with the best tree-planting weather."[26] It has since been largely eclipsed by the more widely-observed Earth Day, except in Nebraska, where it originated.
  • April 22 is also the birthday of actor Eddie Albert (of Green Acres fame), who was a staunch environmentalist and spokesperson for The National Arbor Day Foundation. Albert spoke at the inaugural Earth Day ceremony in 1970.

Earth Week

Many cities extend the observance of Earth Day events to an entire week, usually starting on April 16 and ending on Earth Day, April 22.[27] These events are designed to encourage environmentally-aware behaviors, such as recycling, using energy efficiently, and reducing or reusing disposable items.[28]

22 April continues to be the date of the Annual Iowahawk "Virtual Cruise," attended by millions worldwide.

Earth Day Ecology Flag

Ecology Flag with theta

According to Flags of the World, the Ecology Flag was created by cartoonist Ron Cobb, published on November 7, 1969, in the Los Angeles Free Press, then placed in the public domain. The symbol is a combination of the letters "E" and "O" taken from the words "Environment" and "Organism," respectively. The flag is patterned after the United States' flag, with thirteen alternating-green-and-whites stripes. Its canton is green with a yellow theta. Later flags used either a theta, because of its historic use as a warning symbol, or the peace symbol. Theta would later become associated with Earth Day.

As a 16-year-old high school student, Betsy Vogel, an environmental advocate and social activist who enjoyed sewing costumes and unique gifts, made a 4 x 6-foot (1.8 m) green-and-white "theta" ecology flag to commemorate the first Earth Day. Initially denied permission to fly the flag at C. E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, Vogel sought and received authorization from the Louisiana State Legislature and Louisiana Governor John McKeithen in time to display the flag for Earth Day.[citation needed]

Criticism

Some environmentalists have become critical of Earth Day, particularly those in the bright green environmentalism camp. They charge that Earth Day has come to symbolize the marginalization of environmental protection, and the celebration itself has outlived its usefulness.[29]

A 5 May 2009 editorial in The Washington Times compared Arbor Day to Earth Day, claiming that Arbor Day was a happy, non-political celebration of trees, whereas Earth Day was a pessimistic, political ideology that portrayed humans in a negative light.[30]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Gaylord Nelson Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Box 231, Folder 43.
  2. ^ This American Life, Episode 383, "Origin Story"
  3. ^ Statement by Paul Leventhal on the 25th Anniversary of the Nuclear Control Institute, 6/21/2006 [1]
  4. ^ 'Environmental Crisis' May Eclipse Vietnam as College Issue, New York Times, 11/30/1969
  5. ^ "Earth Day :: Cleaning Up Our Planet" Kidzworld.com. Retrieved on 2009-03-25.
  6. ^ Billion Acts of Green (Beta)
  7. ^ "EarthSite"
  8. ^ "2004 Earth Day". United Nations "Cyberschoolbus".
  9. ^ Margaret Mead, "Earth Day," EPA Journal, March 1978.
  10. ^ "Japanese Peace Bell" United Nations "Cyberschoolbus". Accessed April 25, 2006.
  11. ^ "Earth Society Foundation"
  12. ^ Brown, Tim (April 11, 2005). "What is Earth Day?". United States Department of State. Accessed April 25, 2006.
  13. ^ "Fred Dutton 1923-2005". http://www.freddutton.com. 
  14. ^ a b Congressional Record, Vol 115, No 164, October 8, 1969. [2]
  15. ^ a b "A Memento Mori to the Earth". Time. 1970-05-04. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,943782,00.html. 
  16. ^ "Ecology: 1970 Year in Review, UPI.com"
  17. ^ "Environment". United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand. Accessed April 25, 2006.
  18. ^ Lewis, Jack (November 1985). "The Birth of EPA". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 25 April 2006.
  19. ^ Nelson, Gaylord. "How the First Earth Day Came About". Envirolink.org. Accessed April 22, 2007
  20. ^ a b "History of Earth Day". Earth Day Network. Accessed April 25, 2006.
  21. ^ "About Earth Day Network". www.earthday.org. Accessed April 22, 2007
  22. ^ Christofferson, Bill, "The Man from Clear Lake: Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson", University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 2004, p. 310
  23. ^ Finney, John W. (April 15, 1971). "MUSKIE SAYS F.B.I. SPIED AT RALLIES ON '70 EARTH DAY". The New York Times. p. 1. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0917F73A5F127A93C7A8178FD85F458785F9. 
  24. ^ "Of Leo and Lenin: Happy Earth Day from the Religious Right", Church & State 53 (5): 20, May 2000 
  25. ^ Marriott, Alexander (2004-04-21). "This Earth Day Celebrate Vladimir Lenin's Birthday!". Capitalism Magazine. http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3382. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  26. ^ "Arbor Day's Beginnings". The National Arbor Day Foundation. http://www.arborday.org/arborday/history.cfm. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  27. ^ "City Celebrates Earth Week". City of Chicago. 2007. http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/webportal/portalContentItemAction.do?topChannelName=HomePage&contentOID=536937837&Failed_Reason=Invalid+timestamp,+engine+has+been+restarted&contenTypeName=COC_EDITORIAL&com.broadvision.session.new=Yes&Failed_Page=%2fwebportal%2fportalContentItemAction.do. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  28. ^ E.g., "Earth Day :: Cleaning Up Our Planet" Kidzworld.com. Retrieved on 2009-03-25.
  29. ^ WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Make This Earth Day Your Last!
  30. ^ Arbor vs. Earth Day, The Washington Times, 5 May 2009

External links

April 22 Earth Day

Equinoctal Earth Day

Earth Day 2010


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

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Earth Day

  1. (North American countries) April 22; Created in 1970, global day of observance of the need to protect the earth.
  2. (obsolete, US) March 21st.

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