In 1969, one of the many that witnessed the massive oil spills in Santa Barbara, California, was Senator Gaylord Nelson, a staunch environmentalist who hoped to increase ecological awareness. This motivated him to combine the power of the student anti-war protests with the emerging public consciousness about water and air pollution and to organise teach-ins, focusing on eco problems. After he introduced his idea to the national media, he convinced a Republican Congressman, Pete McCloskey, to be his co-chair, and recruited Denis Hayes, an activist, to organise the teach-ins. They chose 22nd April as the teach-ins date because it was a weekday between Spring Day and final exams and more people were likely to show up.
Hayes wanted to go beyond just inspiring students and thereby he used a staff of 85 people to promote the eco events across the population and changed the name to Earth Day. Due to this effort, many organisations and faith groups took part and national media attention was immediately sparked. Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans, equal to 10% of the overall population of the United States, to protest against the effects of the industrial development on the natural environment.
Earth Day 1970 was the beginning of many environmental efforts and protests that led to positive changes - in 1990, Hayes once again organised a campaign, dedicated to the planet, which went global and managed to inspire around 200 million people from 141 different countries. This Earth Day did not only invite and motivate more people to recognise the pollution of the planet but it also led to a huge boost of recycling efforts, which was huge back then. In 2000, Hayes led another campaign with a focus on global warming and the importance of clean energy, during which he worked with 5, 000 environmental groups from 184 countries. He managed to generate global and local environmental conversations and thereby to mobilise activists around the globe.
Today, with the rise of the Internet and the growing public recognition of the importance of resolving the existing environmental problems, around 1 billion individuals mobilise and take actions each Earth Day. That said, make sure to do something this Earth Day, which is today – you will not only be contributing to saving our planet, but you will be also taking part in a historical movement!