This article was written in collaboration with Humble Sustainability, a platform for circular living and proud IdeaSpace graduate. Humble collects items that people or businesses no longer use and brings them back into circularity, passing back some of the value to the people or businesses they collected them from.
The clamor to combat climate change and save planet earth is louder than ever. Just last year, numerous global institutions, organizations, and world leaders attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) where signatories of the Paris Climate Agreement discussed different methods to ensure we achieve the environmental goals of the treaty.
Aside from formal agreements involving elected officials, the rest of the world has long taken part in commemorating planet Earth and spreading awareness about environmental issues through a celebration we all know and love – Earth Day. To get you up to speed, here are a few facts about Earth Day, how and where it started, its evolution through the years, and the ways you can celebrate it:
1. Earth Day was a grassroots movement and protest against the effects of the Industrial Revolution.
Earth Day founder American senator Gaylord Nelson had a vision where students participating in anti-war movement protests would also fight for climate justice in a manner with a similar passion.
Nelson’s concern for the environment was founded upon the popularity of automobiles, one of the by-products of the Industrial Revolution. Cars until the mid-1970s, primarily used leaded gasoline–a toxic fuel discovered in the 1920s that was extremely damaging to the ozone layer. According to the EARTHDAY.ORG website, the stench of air pollution was equated by American society to “prosperity.”
To open the eyes of the general public, Nelson created a team that organized educational events, all held on the same day, to promote environmental consciousness, and instill a sense of urgency in American society for demanding systemic change.
2. Earth Day’s “odd” date, April 22, was chosen to strengthen student participation in collegiate campuses across the United States.
You might be wondering – of all the days in the year, why April 22?
Among the members of Nelson’s team was Denis Hayes, an environmental advocate and activist. Hayes coordinated with various collegiate campuses across the United States to conduct seminars that aimed to translate environmental knowledge into action.
While April 22 may seem like a random choice, Hayes chose the date for a very specific and strategic reason: student attendance and participation.
After all, Earth Day’s objective of heightened awareness would not be possible with a small audience. Hayes then strategically picked a weekday after the college students’ spring break and final exams, hence the odd day of April 22nd.
3. The first Earth Day inspired legislation reform in the United States.
Nelson, Hayes, the rest of the team from Nelson’s Senate office, and even student volunteers organized the first Earth Day. Over 20 million protestors from schools and communities across the country participated in events like speeches and performances.
Given the magnitude of the rallies held in April 1970, public opinion polls about prioritizing the environment soared by a massive 2,500 percent in the following year.
In the same decade, the United States Congress passed laws that aim to maintain clean and quality water, protect endangered species, control the use of toxic substances and regulate mining – many of which served as inspirations for the Philippines’ own environmental legislation. The power of collective action!
4. Decades after the flagship event, the Earth Day campaign has since been adopted by countries worldwide.
In the 1990s, Hayes ventured into making Earth Day celebrations global. Increasing the audience ten-fold–with 200 million participants from 141 countries–this became the highlight of Earth Day 1990. The monumental event was said to have played a major role in the organization of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
Protesters from 184 countries and 5,000 environmental groups in the 2000s opened conversations about topics of global interest such as global warming and renewable, clean energy.
Since 2010, EARTHDAY.ORG proudly revealed that there are more than 1 billion people that come together on Earth Day and advocate for the protection and restoration of the planet and its resources.
5. Earth Day activities include participating in social media and digital conversations, protests, cleanups, live events, and tree planting, among others.
While most of the last 50 years of Earth Day celebrations consisted of onsite activities and protests, Earth Day has shifted to the virtual space in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, there are a number of ways that you can contribute to the cause of Earth Day, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, traditional onsite seminars were redesigned to accommodate online setups. The 2021 Earth Day Summit was opened to the digital space on Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, YouTube and EARTHDAY.ORG. Conversations during the Summit explored topics such as the significance of climate literacy, youth participation in the fight for climate justice and racial inclusion in such conversations. Volunteers were also allowed to register online to attend cleanups and tree planting initiatives in different parts of the world.
Even Humble is joining in on the fun! We’re showing Mother Earth some love this April with a campaign to clear our planet of recyclables. Declutter your paper, plastic and more and get the chance to earn special gifts at Thrift by Humble! Learn more about it here.
2022 Earth Day is right around the corner. With the easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, volunteers have slowly started reverting back to the traditions developed by Nelson’s staff half a century ago.
However, in the age of consumerism and fast fashion, it is now more than ever that our planet needs dedicated advocates that will avidly confront the deteriorating environmental state and demand the people in power do better.
Now that you are experts on Earth Day’s history and evolution, we hope that you will continue (or start) to partake in this amazing 52-year-long ode to our planet. We sure will!