The first Earth Day made a lasting impact on how we view environmental issues today and led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. In addition to all of that, one of the greatest aspects of Earth Day was how it united a diverse array of people in a common cause. Some of the most passionate advocates were middle-class women, church groups, liberal democrats, labor unions and scientists. Because Gaylord planned for this movement to begin with education, schools have always played a major role in the celebrations.
The environment isn’t just a U.S. issue so the next obvious step in the history of Earth Day was taking it global in 1990. That year it grew to include 141 countries and 200 million people. In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Gaylord the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his incredible efforts, saying: “In establishing Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson helped us to recognize that our fragile environment was increasingly at peril and that each of us could make a difference. His work has inspired all Americans to take responsibility for the planet’s well-being and for our children’s future.”
You can participate in this year’s Earth Day by signing the Climate Petition to Save the Planet urging leaders to take steps to completely phase out carbon, by joining the A Billion Acts of Green movement and finding local events in your area. And, of course, you can participate every day by recycling, reducing your family’s carbon footprint and conserving energy.