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History of Earth Day

Updated on March 13, 2008

Earth Day and Senator Gaylord Nelson

Earth Day actually got its beginnings from President John F. Kennedy. At the suggestion of Senator Gaylord Nelson, President Kennedy went on a national conservation tour for five days in 1963. He toured 11 states. This was the beginning of the idea to have an Earth Day.

The public seemed to be concerned about the state of the environment. However, there was no support from federal government. The federal government simple wasn't interested in environmental concerns.

The inspiration for the first Earth Day came from the Vietnam War protests that were occurring all across the United States. College campuses were holding sit-ins to demonstrate against the Vietnam War. Senator Gaylord Nelson thought this would be an excellent vehicle to bring about awareness of the environment.

Grassroots efforts begun to organize the first Earth Day in April of 1970. News of the planned demonstration spread as it started to get national news coverage from the media. The very first Earth Day was an outstanding success, with more than 20 million demonstrators across the United States.

Today, Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22 by almost 200 countries throughout the world. It helps to bring about awareness of important environmental concerns. On the March equinox each year, The United Nations celebrates Earth Day by ringing the Bell of Peace. Many cities have adopted an entire Earth Week to help extend the environmental holiday.

Earth Day is credited to bringing about awareness of important environmental issues. Earth Day is given partial credit for the passing of important environmental laws including ensuring clean drinking water and the Clean Air Act, which reduced air pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency was formed just months after the first Earth Day.

Senator Gaylord Nelson is called the Father of Earth Day. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the environment and to humans in general. It is the highest honor awarded to civilians.

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