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Each year on April 22, people around the world celebrate Earth Day. It’s a time to recognize our amazing planet and to focus on “green awareness,” or concerns about the environment. The idea of Earth Day was born in 1970 from Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin. He wanted to raise public awareness of environmental issues, such as air and water pollution.

In the 1960s, Americans were beginning to become aware of the effects that industrial pollution, pesticides, gas pollution, the lack of recycling, and other damaging practices were having on the environment. In 1969, Senator Nelson saw the affects of the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He thought if he could fuse together the kinds of passion and intensity shown by anti-war protestors with the emerging public awareness of air and water pollution, environmental protection would come to the forefront of any national political agenda. As a result, he proposed a national teach-in on environmental issues to occur on April 22, 1970 – and the response was overwhelming. People from all over the country helped to organize the movement at the grassroots level. Thousands of students in schools and workers in local communities became involved and participated in events to highlight environmental concerns.

Support for legislation and actions to combat environmental issues grew at an astonishing rate. During the 1970s, important pieces of environmental legislation were passed, such as the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In addition, in December of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was created. This governmental organization was assigned the task of protecting human health and safeguarding the air, water and land.

According to the Earth Day Network, a non-profit organization that puts together Earth Day activities, Earth Day started to gain world-wide popularity in 1990 when 200 million people in over 140 nations participated in activities around the globe. The numbers only increased from there. Today the Earth Day Network partners with over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, with more than a billion people participating in the activities. Earth Day is truly a global event with the mission of addressing the environmental needs of the Earth now and for years to come.

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