Every April 22nd, the world comes together to celebrate Earth Day, an event that raises awareness and support for environmental causes. Now coordinated by the Earth Day Network, it was first celebrated in 1970, and currently involves over 192 countries.
John McConnell, a peace activist, came up with the idea that the first day of spring, March 21, should be honored through celebration of the Earth and peace. He presented his idea to the 1969 San Francisco UNESCO Conference. McConnell developed a proclamation which was signed and enacted by General U Thant of the United Nations.
A month after McConnell’s spring celebration, United States senator Gaylord Nelson used April 22, 1970 as a day for environmental teach-ins across the nation. In 1993, Earth Day became an international festival when Denis Hayes, the teach-in coordinator in the 70’s, created an organization, the Earth Day Network, and organized different activities in 141 countries. Earth Day has expanded to Earth Week, in which an entire week is devoted to environmental issues.
Thanks to Nelson and Hayes, the first Earth Day celebration saw participation from two thousand colleges, ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and numerous communities throughout the U. S. Over 20 million Americans sought environmental reform. Hayes has stated that: “Earth Day is the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”
Earth Day received its obvious title in the fall of 1969, as Nelson says was suggested by several people including Julian Koenig, who was a New York ad exec and public relations manager. Koenig was on the original organizing committee, and found it a coincidence that the day selected for the celebration, April 22, was also his birthday. He proposed Earth Day as the title, finding the natural connection of the rhyming nature of birthday and Earth Day too hard to resist.
The Earth Day Network was created in 1993 with a goal of supporting grassroots Earth Day activities. New York and San Diego were the primary cities responsible for keeping up with Earth Day celebrations in the past, but Denis Hayes became official chairman of the network in 2000. With Hayes’ guidance that organization has become an established group based in Washington DC.
Promoting guidance, action, and education of the environment and issues related to it, the Earth Day Network has membership from non-governmental organizations, local governments, activists, and others. The international aspect reaches 25,000 organizations, and creates millions of domestic development and protection events on Earth Day and the remainder of the year.
Earth Day is still celebrated by the United Nations and others on the first day of the spring equinox, as proposed by John McConnell originally. Since March 1972, The United Nations Earth Day Celebration has continued, although the UN still works with others to organize global events on April 22. The Earth Society Foundation organizes events for the spring Earth Day, and is celebrated by ringing a bell in hope for world peace.
Rumor Has It …
… that Earth Day was once called Mirth Day since people were happy that Spring had sprung and winter had fallen and the Suzanne Somers was doing the worm dance on the horizon.