On April 22 every year, more than one billion people across the world mark Earth Day, by showing support for environmental protection. Earth Day aims to encourage people across the world to be more environmentally friendly.
Activities associated with the day often include planting trees, raising awareness about recycling, volunteering for green projects, and reducing the amount of energy people consume. Festivals, rallies and outdoor events are held in nearly 200 countries – often, with the support of A-list celebrities and political leaders.
Earth Day began in 1970 as a day to celebrate the planet and encourage people to be more environmentally friendly. The first celebration was held in the US after a devastating oil spill, and is widely regarded as the beginning of the modern environmental movement.
Now it is coordinated globally by the non-profit Earth Day Network, which describes it as ‘the largest secular holiday in the world’.
The day has its own flag, which was created by US peace activist John McConnell and, perhaps unsurprisingly, features a picture of the world on it. It also has its own anthems – one of which is performed to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, but with lyrics about protecting the planet.
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Organizers behind Earth Day, are hoping to use the 2016 celebration to plant 7.8 billion trees, divest from fossil fuels and make cities 100 per cent renewable.
To celebrate Earth Day 2016, leaders from 160 countries will officially sign the Paris Climate Agreement. The deal was thrashed out in Paris last December in order to stem global warming.
The signing makes this year’s Earth Day one of the most important in years, and the organizers will be attempting to build on the momentum created by last year’s Paris Climate Summit.
During the Paris talks world leaders agreed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, with developed countries providing $100 billion of public and private finance to help developing countries by 2020.
Google has designed a Doodle, to mark the day, one of many that it creates year after year. Earth Day is supported by a host of celebrities, including Leonardo Di Caprio, Emma Watson, Miley Cyrus and Matt Damon.
To play your own part in this year’s celebrations, you are encouraged to;
- Grow your own food (or buy locally-grown produce)
- Go paperless
- Plant a tree
- Stop drinking bottled water
- Start carpooling (or take up cycling)
- Invest in a solar-powered phone charger
On the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970, approximately 20 million Americans, especially on college campuses, participated in a national teach-in on environmental issues and protests against environmental deterioration.
Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson is widely credited with suggesting the first Earth Day on April 22. It was a movement whose time had come, and San Francisco activist John McConnell also asked Americans to join in a demonstration in 1970.
McConnell chose the spring equinox (March 21, 1970) as his date. Today, you can find Earth Day events on both the spring equinox and April 22. Undoubtedly true, some say April 22 was chosen to maximize the number of students who could be reached on university campuses.
But the April 22 date for the first Earth Day also stemmed from a much-earlier observance: Arbor Day, which began in Nebraska in 1872.
J. Sterling Morton was a Nebraska pioneer, a writer and editor for Nebraska’s first newspaper, and later secretary of the Nebraska Territory. He advocated planting trees in what was then a dusty and treeless prairie.
In January 1872, Morton proposed that Nebraska citizens set aside April 10 as a day to plant trees. He suggested offering prizes as incentives for communities and organizations that planted the most trees. It’s said that Nebraskans planted about one million trees on that first Arbor Day in 1872.
Ten years later, in 1882, Nebraska declared Arbor Day as a legal holiday and the date was changed to Morton’s birthday, April 22. Arbor Day grew to become a national observance.
It seemed natural to schedule April 22, which is also the birthday of J. Sterling Morton – Arbor Day – making April 22, 1970 as the first Earth Day. Today, a common practice in celebration of Earth Day is still to plant new trees.