The first Earth Day took place in 1970, giving a voice to a growing movement that espoused the importance of addressing environmental issues and adopting eco-friendly lifestyles. This year, Earth Day takes place on April 22.
The late Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson is credited with coming up with the idea for a day devoted to focusing on environmental issues affecting the entire planet. Nelson was reportedly inspired by the vehement student anti-Vietnam War movement that took root in the United States in the late 1960s and continued into the 1970s. Senator Nelson felt that if he could inspire similar passion among the masses about environmental issues, then those issues would force their way into the national agenda.
Senator Nelson’s intuition proved correct, and on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans gathered in streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against policies and practices that contributed to the deterioration of the environment. Today, Earth Day has spread far beyond U.S. borders and is now observed in 192 countries across the globe. New initiatives continue to be proposed as the world population grows increasingly aware of the effects of climate change and the role ordinary citizens can play to protect the environment every day.