At a conference in Seattle, Washington, U.S., in September 1969, Senator Gaylord
Nelson of Wisconsin announced that in spring 1970 there would be a nationwide
grassroots demonstration on the environment. This occurred during a time of
great concern about overpopulation and when there was a strong movement towards
"Zero Population Growth."
Nelson viewed the stabilization of the nation's population as an important
aspect of environmentalism and later said:
"The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become
... We have to address the population issue. The United Kingdom, with the U.S.
supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible
for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it's
phony to say 'I'm for the environment but not for limiting immigration.'"
Senator Nelson first proposed the nationwide environmental protest to thrust
the environment onto the national agenda.” "It was a gamble,"
he recalls, "but it worked."
Ron Cobb created an ecology symbol, which was later adopted as the Earth Day
symbol, and was published on November 7th, 1969, in the Los Angeles Free Press
and then placed it in the public domain. The symbol was a combination of the
letters "E" and "O" taken from the words "Environment"
and "Organism", respectively. Look magazine incorporated the symbol
into a flag in their April 21, 1970 issue. The flag was patterned after the
flag of the United States, and had thirteen stripes alternating green and white.
Its canton was green with the ecology symbol where the stars would be in the
United States flag.
John McConnell in front
of his home in Denver Colorado, USA
with the Earth Flag he designed.
Five months before the first April 22 Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969,
The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the
rising hysteria of "global cooling".
"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's
campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent
over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental problems...is
being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated
from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."
Senator Nelson also hired Denis Hayes as the coordinator.
April 22, 1970, Earth Day marks the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
Approximately 20 million Americans participated, with a goal of a healthy, sustainable
Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his old staff organized massive
coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests
against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting
against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic
dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife
suddenly realized they shared common values.
Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental
issues onto the world stage, Earth Day on April 22 in 1990 gave a huge boost
to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations
Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this
time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. The April 22 Earth
Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with
the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day
had the Internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April
22 came around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching
out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied:
A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for
example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall
in Washington, D.C., USA.
Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round
wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. Earth Day 2007 was one of
the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating
in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela;
Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.
Founded by the organizers of the first April 22 Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day
Network promotes environmental citizenship and year round progressive action
worldwide. Earth Day Network is a driving force steering environmental awareness
around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect change in local,
national, and global policies. Earth Day Network’s international network
reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program
engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community
development and environmental protection activities throughout the year.
Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people
of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people
participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year.