Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally in more than 193 countries.
The event emerged against the backdrop of an anti-war student activist movement. While it’s tempting to assume that Earth Day was the result of a youthful grassroots campaign, it was actually spearheaded through a rare bipartisan partnership between Democratic and Republican lawmakers:
Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, horrified by a series of environmental catastrophes that seemingly escaped public outrage and action, was inspired by the success of the youth anti-war movement to replicate a similar movement for environmental protection. The idea was a national “teach-in on the environment” to raise public awareness about air and water pollution. To achieve this goal, Nelson reached across the aisle to Republican Congressman, Pete McCloskey.
The first Earth Day celebrations took place across two thousand colleges and universities 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.”
Today, Earth Day celebrations have grown to be a major global event and is celebrated in many different ways.