- Politics and Social Issues
Earth Day is the day designated for fostering appreciation of the earth's environment and awareness of the issues that threaten it.
Earth Day Origins
Earth Day is observed on April 22 and is the annual U.S. celebration of the environment. It's a time for Americans to assess the work still needed to protect the natural gifts of our planet. Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970, in San Francisco, California. Every year, America and over 100 other countries join together in the celebration of Earth Day. It is the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide. It is a day to remember to appreciate nature and learn ways to protect our environment.
Origin of Earth Day
Gaylord Nelson, was a U.S. senator and a longtime conservationist, from Wisconsin. Nelson noticed the turmoil on college campuses over the Vietnam War. Protests, called anti-war teach-ins, were being held on campuses across the nation. It occurred to him, that there could be a nationwide teach-in on the environment. That was the origin of Earth Day.
Nelson returned to Washington and began promoting Earth Day to state governors, mayors, editors of college newspapers and to Scholastic Magazine, which is circulated in U.S. elementary and secondary schools. In September 1969, Nelson formerly announced that there would be a “national environmental teach-in” sometime in spring 1970. By December, the movement had expanded so rapidly that it became necessary to open an office in Washington to serve as a national clearinghouse for Earth Day inquiries and activities.
According to Senator Nelson, “Earth Day achieved what I had hoped for. The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political arena. It was a gamble, but it worked. An estimated 20 million people participated in peaceful demonstrations all across the country. That was the remarkable thing that became Earth Day.”
Federal legislation followed the success of the first Earth Day. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970, followed by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
What began in 1970 as a protest movement has evolved into a global celebration of the environment and commitment to its protection. The history of Earth Day mirrors the growth of environmental awareness over the last few decades, and the legacy of Earth Day is the certain knowledge that the environment is a universal concern.
Recycle - Go Green
EPA's Mission - Save the Environment
The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.
Clean Air Act
Environmental Problems - Pollution
It may be hard to imagine that before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic fumes into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal. They could not be taken to court to stop it.
How was that possible? Because there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment.
In the Spring of 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day as a way to “force this issue onto the national agenda.” 20 million Americans demonstrated in different U.S. cities, and it worked!
In December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Do we really have to destroy tomorrow in order to live today?”
- Gaylord Nelson
“Earth Day marks the beginning of an historic venture involving Americans of all ages, philosophies, and backgrounds in the crucial fight to protect our environment and our very lives.”
- Sen.William Proxmire, 1970
“Our goal is a new American ethic that sets new standards for progress, emphasizing human dignity and well-being rather than an endless parade of technology that produces more gadgets, more waste, more pollution. Are we able to meet the challenge? Yes. We have the technology and the resources. Are we willing? That is the unanswered question.”
- Gaylord Nelson, April 22, 1970
“If we have a right that is more important than any other right, it is the right to live in a clean and decent environment.”
- Gaylord Nelson, January 19, 1970
“Earth Day  had a different objective from Earth Week … Earth Week is an occasion each year when we can take an inventory of our progress for the last year and to plan for the next.”
- Gaylord Nelson, April 7, 1971
“One can not fail to see that deforestation, ozone depletion, ocean pollution, and the threat of global warming interconnect to challenge our future. We no longer enjoy the luxury of leisurely action.”
- Pres. George H.W. Bush, January 1990
“A monumental moral cause is near at hand and a far more serious challenge than the Cold War ever was. It’s the war against the planet. How do we bring it to an end and where do we start? It must start in the United States. We cannot and should not wait for the rest of the world.”
- Gaylord Nelson, April 22, 1995
“The wealth of the nation is its air, water, soil, forests, minerals, rivers, lakes, oceans, scenic beauty, wildlife habitats and biodiversity … That’s the whole economy. These biological systems are the sustaining wealth of the world.”
- Gaylord Nelson, 1995
Why Recycle? Save the Environment!
10 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Go Green for Earth Day
Easy Earth Day Activities
1. Reduce Electricity
Explain to your children that lights, computers, televisions and furnaces use energy, and that energy is in short supply.
2. Take Small Steps
There are dozens of small things your kids can do every day to save energy and keep the world cleaner and greener. Your kids can:
- Shut off the water when they brush their teeth
- Walk, ride a bike or take the bus instead of traveling by car
- Take faster showers or baths in just a small amount of water
- Help hang clothes on the line instead of putting them in the dryer
- Choose products that are not over packaged
Explain to your kids that every bottle and can they use is waste that just sits in a big pile at the local dump if we don’t recycle. Get them involved by making it their job to sort recyclables and take them out for pickup.
It’s easy to collect your own food scraps and garden waste and turn it into healthy compost in your own yard.
5. Do a Donation Tour
A great way to get across the message of "reuse" and "recycle" is to take kids on a trip to your local thrift store, recycling center, or church. If your children have old clothing, toys, shoes, or other items in reusable condition, make a family trip down to the donation center so they can see how their trash is someone else's treasure.
6. Write a Letter
Your children can write letters to government leaders and corporations about pollution and other environmental issues, and you can give them a hand in looking up addresses and help them decide what they’re going to write. Talk about how you live in a democracy and every voice counts, no matter how small.
7. Make a Reusable Bag
Make fun bags for grocery shopping. Plastic shopping bas are a big garbage problem -- it takes 1,000 years for a bag to break down!
8. Do a Project
Do a research project on an environmental issue like pollution, garbage or energy.
9. Enjoy the Earth
Kids have to love the world to want to protect it. So take nature walks and look at the trees, flowers and sky
10. Talk About It
Talk to your kids about birds, plants, gas-guzzling vehicles and energy use. Just asking your children to shut off the lights and reuse plastic bags is not enough -- they must understand why we’re doing these things and what impact they might have.
Here's an Earth Day Treat the Kids Will Enjoy!
Little boys and girls love to play in the dirt, and these delicious dessert cups allow them to really enjoy it. Crushed chocolate cookies and instant chocolate pudding create a muddy earth in these cups, while gummy worms and insects wriggle out of them. You can even tuck them into new, foil lined clay pots, if you like.