Celebrating Earth Day
Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22, and on this day a lot of events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, and this international event is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, with over 190 countries participating each year.
The idea of organizing this event belongs to the peace activist John McConnell who suggested celebrating a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace in 1969 during a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. This proposal was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. In a month a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson and first held on April 22, 1970. For this Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. Even though the first April 22 Earth Day took place in the United States, the organization headed by Denis Hayes responsible for national coordination in 1970 made it international in 1990 having organized events in 141 countries. Today many communities celebrate Earth Week full of activities dedicated to environmental issues.
Earth Day 1970
Students of two thousand colleges and universities, about ten thousand primary and secondary schools, along with hundreds of communities across the United States took part in the first Earth Day in 1970. That day 20 million Americans gathered for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform. Now this event is observed in 192 countries, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes. Environmental groups view Earth Day as a day of action which impacts human behavior and drives policy changes.
Earth Day of 1970 in New York City and Philadelphia
Mayor Lindsay facilitated organizing Earth Day in New York in1970, and even agreed to shut down Fifth Avenue for the event. Since that time the event coordinators used Mayor Lindsay's offices and even his staff to help organize the celebration. In addition to shutting down Fifth Avenue, Mayor John Lindsay made Central Park available for Earth Day and more than one million people gathered that day to honor the event. As the offices of NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Time, and Newsweek are located in Manhattan, the event got the biggest publicity throughout the country.
In Philadelphia the event was hosted by environmentalist Ira Einhorn. U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie was the key speaker on Earth Day in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Other notable participants were consumer protection activist and presidential candidate Ralph Nader; Landscape Architect Ian McHarg; Nobel prize-winning Harvard Biochemist, George Wald; U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Hugh Scott; and poet, Allen Ginsberg.
Earth Day 1990
In 1990 Earth Day mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries and this celebration fueled recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Unlike the first Earth Day in 1970, this 20th Anniversary was held with stronger marketing tools, greater access to television and radio, and multimillion-dollar budgets.
Two separate groups formed to sponsor Earth Day events in 1990: The Earth Day 20 Foundation, created by Edward Furia (Project Director of Earth Week in 1970), and Earth Day 1990, organized by Denis Hayes (National Coordinator for Earth Day 1970). Senator Gaylord Nelson, the original founder of Earth Day, was honorary chairman for both groups. Earth Day 1990 used variety of tools and strategies to promote the event, such as focus group testing, direct mail fund raising, and email marketing.
Warner Bros. Records released an Earth Day-themed single in 1990 entitled "Tomorrow's World", written by Kix Brooks and Pam Tillis. The song featured vocals from Lynn Anderson, Butch Baker, Shane Barmby, Billy Hill, Suzy Bogguss, Kix Brooks, T. Graham Brown, The Burch Sisters, Holly Dunn, Foster & Lloyd, Vince Gill, William Lee Golden, Highway 101, Shelby Lynne, Johnny Rodriguez, Dan Seals, Les Taylor, Pam Tillis, Mac Wiseman, and Kevin Welch.
Earth Day 2000
Earth Day 2000 employed the Internet as its principal organizing tool both nationally and internationally. This time the campaign of the event focused on global warming and pushing for clean energy. The executive director of the 2000 campaign was Kelly Evans, a professional political organizer. For Earth Day 2000, 5,000 environmental groups around the world participated in the festivities reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Leonardo DiCaprio was the official host for the event, and about 400,000 participants stood in the cold rain all day long.
Subsequent Earth Day Events
In 1990 Earth Day USA was established to turn Earth Day into a sustainable annual event. Earth Day USA coordinated the next five Earth Day celebrations through 1995. Following the 25th Anniversary in 1995, the coordination was handed to Earth Day Network.
After Earth Day 2000 Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest international celebrations, with many people participating in the activities in thousands of places including New York; London; Madrid, Spain; Caracas, Venezuela; Kiev, Ukraine; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; and many others.