Guess what April 22nd is? Exactly — Earth Day! An annual event to demonstrate support for environmental protection, it first took place April 22, 1970, and now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org. One of the most popular worldwide celebrations, recent Earth Day initiatives have drawn more than one billion people in more than 193 countries.
For a little historical context, in 1969 at a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace. McConnell proposed the day should be observed on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.
A month later, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the national coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event “Earth Day.” Denis and his staff grew the event beyond the original idea to include the entire U.S. More than 20 million people poured out on the streets, and the first Earth Day remains the largest single-day protest in human history. How cool is that?
Now, fast-forward to Earth Day 2016 when the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the U.S., the U.K., China, and 120 other countries. This agreement was an international treaty covering climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Since its founding, communities have engaged in Earth Day activities focused on environmental issues. On Earth Day 2020, more than 100 million people around the world observed the 50th anniversary in what is being referred to as the largest online mass mobilization in history.
So, as we gear up for Earth Day 2022, here are a few fun facts about the day intended to help celebrate — and protect — our beautiful home.
1. It began with an oil spill
Nelson founded Earth Day after witnessing a massive oil spill that leaked millions of gallons of oil off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969. In 1970 he noticed people protesting the Vietnam War, but not putting any pressure on government about the damage being done to the planet via oil spills, pesticides, and deadly smog. Frustrated by the indifference, Nelson pushed to bring our need to protect Earth to the forefront.
2. It went global in 1990
Earth Day originated in the U.S. but became recognized worldwide by 1990. Twenty million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970. It has since grown and has been celebrated in more than 193 countries by more than one billion Earth-minded activists.
3. It was timed for spring break
April 22 was chosen intentionally by Nelson and Hayes. They strategically selected April 22 to attract more college students, who were known for being politically active. The date fell between spring break and final exams, giving them plenty free time to take to the streets to participate on Earth Day.
4. Earth Day led to real change
Earth Day sparked the creation of government environmental organizations. The very first Earth Day sparked an environmental movement — and led to the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Earth Day also played a role in the development and signing of the Paris Agreement.
5. Earth Day has inspired the world
Earth Day has led other countries to start environmentally beneficial initiatives. For example, on Earth Day 2011, the Earth Day Network organized the “Plant Trees Not Bombs” campaign, leading to 28 million trees being planted in Afghanistan. Then on Earth Day in 2012, more than 100,000 people in China rode their bikes to reduce CO2 emissions and highlight the amount of pollution emitted from cars.
6. Every year has a new theme
In 1990, the spotlight was on global mobilization of environmental issues with a strong focus on recycling. In 2000 it was about global warming and clean energy. The theme for Earth Day 2021 was Restore Our Earth, which was intended to be a reminder that while we want to protect our planet, we all also need to protect our planet. The theme for Earth Day 2022 is Invest in Our Planet. The 2022 theme focuses on the business climate, the political climate, and how we all can take action to support our health and survival.
7. Even an Hour can make a difference
In the lead-up to Earth Day, millions of people worldwide will participate in Earth Hour, an initiative to encourage individuals, businesses, and governments to take accountability for their ecological footprint. This year’s Earth Hour took place March 26. It always occurs at 8:30 p.m. local time. In past years, Earth Hour gatherings have contributed to real policy changes, including the creation of a marine-protected area in Argentina and environmental protection legislation in Russia
8. Earth Day has a theme song
No, really! There’s a whole song. The song, Earth Anthem, was written by Indian poet Abhay Kumar in 2013 and has since been recorded in all official UN languages. If you’re looking for a sustainable bop to rock out to, you can check it out here.
9. You are one in a billion
Each year, it’s estimated about one billion people participate in Earth Day in their own ways, big and small. That makes up about 15% of the world’s population. This also makes Earth Day the largest secular celebration in the world.
10. It’s super easy to participate in Earth Day
People of all ages can participate by doing even the smallest of things, like taking out your recycling or getting outside instead of using electronics inside. You can also make a difference by attending a march, planting a tree, cleaning up trash outside, or anything that helps protect and preserve our planet.
It’s no secret that our planet is being impacted by human carelessness. At SaltyLama, we make it our business to intentionally, swiftly, and consistently take actions to help the planet. Earth Day calls on everyone to protect the planet from things like pollution and deforestation by taking part in activities that help make our world a happier, healthier, and safer place to live. We’re so excited for Earth Day! We hope to see you out there.