Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 annually to raise awareness about the deterioration of our environment, issues that plague our planet, and the urgent need for sustainability.
The day constitutes a variety of special activities like plantation drives, demonstrations, sessions to raise awareness, children's competitions, and more.
One of the largest civic observations in the world, Earth Day is a call to action to draw attention to the growing global climate crisis. It particularly highlights concerns like the increasing challenges of overpopulation, deteriorating environmental quality, and biodiversity loss.
Significance, history, and theme of Earth Day
The United Nations General Assembly designated April 22 as 'International Mother Earth Day' through a resolution that was adopted in 2009. The objective is to celebrate the Earth's ecosystems for their continued provision of life and sustenance.
The intergovernmental body stated:
“The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. Restoring our damaged ecosystems will help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent mass extinction. But we will only succeed if everyone plays a part.”
Additionally, the UN listed a few environmental issues that are rapidly harming the planet and need immediate attention:
“Climate change, man-made changes to nature as well as crimes that disrupt biodiversity, such as deforestation, land-use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, can accelerate the speed of destruction of the planet.”
Earth Day was first celebrated in the US in 1970 post the historic 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. It was spearheaded by an American politician, Gaylord Nelson, who had served as a Governor and a Senator during his career.
The oil spill spurred Senator Nelson to undertake a mission to work towards environmental protection and preservation. Drawing inspiration from the principles of the student anti-war movement, he wanted to organize environmental awareness lectures on college campuses.
Senator Nelson enlisted the help of Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey and prominent youth activist Denis Hayes. They zeroed in on April 22 as the date for the lecture due to its strategic occurrence between spring break and final examinations, thus maximizing potential attendance.
Hayes recognized the potential of making this a historic event and went all out for its promotion, commissioning a national staff of 85 people.
The lecture day was soon rebranded to Earth Day and saw over 20 million in attendance, inviting significant media coverage.
Earth Day has become a global phenomenon since 1990. 52 years since its first celebration, it is estimated that nearly 200 million people from over 140 countries participate in the day's events annually.
The theme for this year's event is 'Invest In Our Planet.’
Expounding on the theme and warning that time is running out, EarthDay.org said:
“This is the moment to change it all — the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate. Now is the time for the unstoppable courage to preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods… together, we must ‘Invest In Our Planet’.”
Earth Day has heralded a number of landmark legislations. These include the Paris Agreement, the National Environmental Education Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.