Earth Day: The Beginning of Change

Earth Day, designated for increasing global awareness in environmental sustainability, is celebrated internationally today, as diverse communities inspire the local action and involvement necessary for implementing true change worldwide.

By Charlotte Bumstead

On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day in history was declared in the United States, where millions of Americans gathered to participate in rallies, marches and educational programs. The man behind the revolutionary event was Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin.

Nelson (1916-2005) was a loyal environmentalist who hoped to place the environment under political spotlight irrevocably, unifying a movement for escalating ecological consciousness. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment, so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy,” Senator Nelson said, “and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.”

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, Nelson represented Wisconsin for 18 years; during which time he sponsored and cosponsored many significant aspects of environmental legislation, including the Wilderness Act. His efforts led to stabilizing environmental laws such as the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Subsequent to his departure from Senate in 1981, Nelson prolonged his battle for the planet’s well being as counsellor of The Wilderness Society. He was involved in a variety of land preservation issues, including termination of logging subsidies, protection of national parks, and expansion of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Every year since the first success of Nelson’s idea, sufficient strides have been made in sharing the global dialogue of sustainability. Strategies for maintaining a prosperous planet focus year-round on energy efficiency, conservation, water reduction, transportation and environmental education. And every year, advancements allow the economy to turn a richer shade of green; as participants create eco-friendly job opportunities, energy savings and an overall healthier environment.

April 22, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary, and an estimated one billion people in 191 countries participated in the event.

Canada dedicates Earth Day 2014 to recognizing what we can do to make our environment more sustainable. The Green Cities campaign is focused on changing the way our cities operate in order to  have a cleaner future and control our climate crisis. The Green Cities campaign is encouraging participants to “call upon cities to invest in clean energy and smart grids, overhaul outdated building codes and place a higher emphasis on building efficiency.” You can join the movement, here.