History of Earth Day

In the 1970’s there was an emerging realization that our planet needed help. To increase awareness of environmental issues facing Earth, a special day was created to dedicate educating the public. April 22 was chosen because University campuses were in session, the weather is traditionally temperate and finals exams were somewhere in the future.


Earth Day Festival (Credit: pps.org)

New York Times cover for Earth Day on April 22, 1970. (Credit: pps.org)

John McConnell was the first to propose an Earth Day concept, but it was Senator Gaylord Nelson a democrat from Wisconsin who was instrumental in raising awareness about protecting the environment. On April 22, 1970, rallies were held in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, DC and Los Angeles as well as numerous college campuses across the country.

The mission of Earth Day was formally established by the Earth Society Foundation in 1976. Its mission was:

“Conduct educational programs and seminars and promote research and investigation throughout the world for the purpose of providing data to all individuals and institutions who are joining in the movement to promote and implement the Earth care ethic: namely, that the stewardship and care of earth requires action to produce and use materials and services that help nurture, conserve and recycle, without destructive pollution, the organisms and nutrients of Earth’s web of life. Coordinate or assist the work of like-minded organizations for the purposes of minimizing unnecessary duplication of energies and maximizing the impact and effectiveness of the earth care movement.”

Through awareness triggered by Earth Day, the United States government was pushed to enact many environmental acts. Enacted were the Clean Air Act, Water Quality Improvement Act,Endangered Species Act, Toxic Substance Control as well as Surface Mine and Reclamation Act.

In 1990 a group of environmental awareness leaders tasked Denis Hayes to take Earth Day global. Two hundred million people in 141 countries brought worldwide environmental issues to light. A decade later global warming was the highlighted issue. Earth Day 2000 featured 5000 environmental groups in 184 countries that connected with hundreds of millions of people using the blossoming internet.

Link Between Global Temperatures And Greenhouse Gas Emissions

There is significant and substantial evidence that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide are correlated with global temperatures. The reasoning is fairly simple asgreenhouse gases act to trap in heat that bounces off the Earth’s surfaceand prohibits it from escaping our atmosphere. The greenhouse gases change the equilibrium of heat exchange between the Earth and Sun. However, linking global climate change to one single source can often times be difficult and inconclusive. This, in a large part, is why it has taken climate scientists decades to determine with almost definiteness that the warming of the Earth we are witnessing is linked to greenhouse gas emissions in recent centuries.

As global temperatures rise, the sea levels also rise from melting of glaciers and polar ice. The oceans of the world absorb about a large majority of the greenhouse gasses emitted into the air through carbon dioxide dissolution and the carbonate factory. In addition, the pH of the ocean water is becoming more acidic from the increased carbon dioxide and hence carbonic acid in oceans. Warming and increasing acidity of our oceans is reflected directly on ocean life and as scuba divers know, the extensive coral reef ecosystems in tropical oceans.


“. . . on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was held, one of the most
remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. . . ”

-American Heritage Magazine, October 1993

earth Festival Boulder

Celebrate the beauty of water and natural resources on April 22nd every year!