April 22nd, 2010

Earth Day Turns 40

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Initiated in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was envisioned as both a means to educate people about environmental issues and a vehicle to bring about changes in environmental political policy. Earth Day has become an internationally recognized event and, according to the Earth Day Network, is the largest secular civic event in the world with more than 1 billion people participating in Earth Day events[1].

The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was a celebration of the power of people to affect change in the political process. Fueled by the activist spirit displayed in the Vietnam War protests and growing dissatisfaction over the state of the environment, Earth Day sounded a wake-up call to politicians at every level. An estimated 20 million Americans[2] participated in some sort of Earth Day activity on that first day. The coordinated voice that came from Earth Day put environmental issues on the political agenda and helped influence sweeping legislative impacts, such as the 1970 amendment of the Clean Air Act and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Throughout its history, Earth Day has highlighted national and global environmental issues, while still promoting local initiatives. The twentieth anniversary of Earth Day in 1990 saw 200 million people in 141 countries engage in events to promote recycling. Earth Day 2000 put the focus on global warming and clean energy.

In 2010, the eyes of Earth Day are still on climate concerns. To highlight this issue, the Earth Day Network is organizing the “Change the Climate” rally at the National Mall in Washington DC on Sunday, April 25. They are also encouraging people to volunteer locally for projects that make a difference in their community. In the Seattle area there are a number of projects and events to commemorate Earth Day.

SMCU celebrates the spirit of Earth Day by taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of day-to-day operations and encourages its members to do the same. We’d love to hear what Earth Day means to you and the sorts of things you are doing to celebrate Earth Day 2010.

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[1]“About Us”, Earthday Network web site, http://earthday.org/about-us, retrieved April 15, 2010

[2]“History of Earth Day”, Earthday Network Web site, http://www.earthday.net/node/77, retrieved April 15, 2010.

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