Granada Hills Charter High School

The origin of Earth Day

Wednesday April 22, 2015 marks the 45th Earth Day, which many consider to be the birth of the modern environmental movement. Earth Day is an annual event celebrated all over the world with events dedicated to highlight the importance of the environment.

During the 1969 UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, California, activist John McConnell introduced the idea of a day to honor the earth and peace on March 21, 1970. A month later Gaylord Nelson, then the senator of Wisconsin, founded a separate Earth Day to bring environmental awareness.

The idea of Earth Day came to the founder Nelson after he had witnessed the massive oil spill of 1969 in Santa Barbara, California and though, according to, that “if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.”

Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award, the highest honor given to civilians, by then President Bill Clinton for his efforts to raise up the need for a day focused on environmental consciousness and raising it to an international stage.

During the first Earth Day, there were participants in numerous colleges nationwide. In New York, Mayor John Lindsay shut down Fifth Avenue and opened up Central Park for the event hosting to a crowd of more than a million. In the meantime, the Philadelphia earth day was hosted by Ira Einhorn and took place at Fairmount Park where several notable speakers like Nobel Prize winner biochemist George Wald and presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Although Nelson’s Earth Day was focused on the United States, Denis Hayes, who was the event coordinator in 1970, set up an organization which by 1990 made Earth Day internationally prominent with events taking place in about 141 nations.

On the 1990 celebration of Earth Day, more than 200 million people worldwide came together to celebrate the event. The 1990 celebration, according to “gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.”

The millennium Earth Day was even more massive, coordinated by 5,000 environmental groups in 184 countries. This Earth Day brought attention to global warming and the need for cleaner energy alternatives.

Earth Day this year will bring more attention to even more relevant environmental concerns and issues. It is important to have awareness about topics that can impact the world we live in. There will be many events taking place in Los Angeles like the Earth Day Expo taking place on April 18 and 19 and the Grand Park Earth Day celebration on April 22.