Earth Day activism and celebration sprung from California in 1970. The day's roots were in the collage of political activism in the late 1960's.
John McConnell, was a central figure in initiating and giving this day momentum. McConnell conceived of Earth Day while a peace activist in the late 1960s. He describes the day as "a global holiday to celebrate the wonder of life on our planet". Key to his vision is the notion that we all share responsibility as Trustees of the Earth.
The former Senator Gaylord Nelson, was also pro-active in initiating the momentum of this day. In the fall of 63, he had tried to bring conservation to American attention by initiating a conservation tour with President Kennedy. In 1970, after an idea inspired on a flight to Santa Barbara, Nelson returned to Washington DC and began raising funding and political momentum for Earth Day. He then went on to tap Denis Hayes to organize momentum behind the day.
Though each effort was initiated independently, they both seem to have given the day might. In 1970, the Mayor of San Francisco, California proclaimed that April 21, would from that day forward, be officially Earth Day.
The next year, U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, proclaimed April 21 Earth Day and spoke on its behalf at a UN "Peace Bell" ceremony.
In the years following the first Earth Day, many important laws were passed by the U.S. Congress, including the Clean Air Act, laws to protect drinking water, wild lands and the ocean. The EPA was created within three years of the first Earth Day.
Today the celebration is observed by some on the Vernal Equinox (the first day of Spring); more commonly it is observed on the 22nd of April.
"Individuals and institutions can now be trustees of Earth, seeking in ecology, economics and ethics, policies and decisions that will benefit people and planet. In the present state of the world, this Space Age trustee concept has a chance of tapping the best in human hopes and aspirations and providing a healthy, innovative and fulfilling future for our planet and its people. In this new future, deeds will demonstrate what is best in creeds. Young Earth Trustees will lead the way."
From the Prelude to the Earth Day Magna Charta:
"Don't ever forget -- if you want to move the nation to make hard decisions on political issues, the grassroots is the source of power. With it you can do anything -- without it, nothing. If we are going to move the nation to an environmentally sustainable economy, you and the younger generations right behind you are going to have to do it -- and I think you will."
From a speech by Senator Gaylord Nelson
"Earth Day is a commitment to make life better, not just bigger and faster, to provide real rather than rhetorical solutions... It is a day to reexamine the ethic of individual progress at mankind's expense-a day to challenge the corporate and governmental leaders who promise change, but who short-change the necessary programs...April 22 seeks a future worth living."
Happy Earth Week!