Over 50 years ago, Earth Day was born. An annual event that billions of people around the world honor and celebrate. A day where adults, children, businesses, and organizations come together to protect our environment and planet.

Earth Day is one that many of us celebrate and honor each year. But have you ever stopped and wondered how such a tradition began? Have you ever thought that a worldwide movement may have started in our very own backyards?

On April 22nd, 1970 in Madison, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Senator, Gaylord Nelson, founded Earth Day.

In the Spring of 1970, Senator Nelson created Earth Day as an effort to force environmental issues onto the national agenda. What started as a teach-in event about environmental issues had an outcome that Nelson could have never imagined. Nearly twenty million Americans demonstrated across different U.S. cities on that day in 1970.

Nelson had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment. But after witnessing the damaging effects of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA, he knew something had to change and he had an idea. Being inspired by the student anti-war movement, Nelson worked with a young activist, Denis Hayes, to organize campus teach-ins and broaden the efforts to multiple organizations and the media across the United States.

The National Teach-In on the Crisis of the Environment (the original name for the event) resulted in millions of school children, college students, and many others going to the streets and organizing events in protest over the damage being done to the planet. After the first-ever Earth Day demonstration, the government established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Next time you pause to appreciate the beautiful area we live in, please give thanks to Gaylord Nelson for establishing Earth Day and the powerful legacy he left behind. Click here to learn more about the history of Earth Day.


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