April 20, 2023
Earth Day is a global event celebrated annually on April 22. The aim of Earth Day is to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage people to take action to protect the planet. It is a day to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the Earth and to appreciate the natural world around us.
In 1969, Sen. Gaylord Nelson was a man with a mission. As a junior senator from Wisconsin, he had been deeply concerned about the state of the environment in the United States. In January 1969, he witnessed the catastrophic effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. It was a turning point for him and many others.
Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Nelson wanted to harness the energy and activism of young people and use it to create a groundswell of public support for environmental protection. He believed that the emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution could be amplified by the passion and enthusiasm of college students who were already engaged in political activism. Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media. He enlisted the help of Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican U.S. representative from California, to serve as his co-chair, and together they recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins.
They chose April 22, 1970, as the date for the first Earth Day. Millions of people across the U.S. came together to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection and to demand action from their elected officials.
The first Earth Day was a big deal! It led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an organization that helps protect our environment. That same year, the National Environmental Education Act and the Clean Air Act were passed. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed. Then, in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed. These laws and others are vital in keeping people, animals and plants healthy and safe.
One of the most effective ways to celebrate Earth Day is to get involved in local environmental initiatives. This could include calling or emailing your local/state representatives, participating in a community clean-up, planting trees, or supporting a local conservation organization. Many cities and towns organize events and activities on Earth Day, so be sure to check your local listings and see how you can get involved.
Earth Day is a time to reflect on the beauty and diversity of the planet. Take a moment to appreciate the natural world around you, whether that means taking a hike in the woods, spending time in a local park, or simply looking up at the stars at night. By appreciating the natural world, we are reminded of our responsibility to protect it for future generations.
Gaylord Nelson and the Origins of Earth Day
Questions to ask
- Why is Gaylord Nelson often referred to as the "Father of Earth Day"?
- What inspired Nelson to create Earth Day, and how did he go about organizing the first event?
- What were some of the key environmental issues that Nelson was concerned about, and how did he work to address them?
Rachel Carson’s Fight for the Environment
Questions to ask
- What was Rachel Carson's most famous book, and what was its impact on the public perception of environmental issues?
- How did Carson's writing and activism challenge the traditional views on the use of pesticides and other chemicals in agriculture and industry?
- What were some of the key criticisms of Carson's work, and how did she respond to them?
Is America Doing Enough to Go Green?
Questions to ask
- Why is the Paris Agreement a critical global effort to address the pressing issue of climate change?
- How do environmental challenges, such as climate change and deforestation, impact human health and well-being?
- What are some of the most effective solutions for addressing global environmental challenges, and what role can individuals and communities play in implementing these solutions?
The Day the River Caught Fire
Questions to ask
- What was the purpose of establishing the Environmental Protection Agency?
- What role does the EPA play in regulating pollution and enforcing environmental laws?
- In what ways can businesses collaborate with government agencies, nonprofits and other stakeholders to address environmental issues?
Also, check out these websites for more information:
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Celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day
This Earth Day and Arbor Day, use these engaging preK-12 lesson plans, activities and resources to celebrate and teach your students how they can take action in their community to create a healthier planet.
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Untold History explores stories, people and artifacts that students won’t learn about in an ordinary text book. Perhaps now more than ever, our history is a vital and very present part of the world around us.