Posted on April 23 2022
With the world upside down right now and in a precarious position with a shocking war in Ukraine - and just as we started to move on from the perils of a pandemic - it feels like we should cherish Earth and being here more than ever.
Earth Day is an important date for the diary but where and when did it all start?
In January 1969 there was a huge oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.
Within days, an oil slick covered 30 square miles of beautiful ocean. Seagulls and all types of birds and sea lions were being washed ashore covered in thick black, sticky gunk as the spill grew larger by the hour. The smell of crude oil covered the town and instead of hearing the crash of waves many have said 'the sea made a muffled, gurgling sound'
The world looked on in horror as it as the first real time something like this had ever been televised.
A United States Senator called Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin was so incensed, he decided over the next year to organise a national demonstration to raise awareness about environmental issues.
Inspired by the student anti-war movement he wanted to get students as vocal and energetic about air and water pollution as they were the war.
Originally he was simply going to set up some discussion classes on college campuses but there was so much anger, one young activist called Denis Hayes helped recruit another 85 supporters who all individually set up meetings across the country.
By the time 1970 April 22 came - the day they decided would be called 'Earth Day' (to get media attention) 20 million Americans (which was a massive 10% of the population in 1970) took to the streets and parks to demonstrate against 159 years of industrial development which was starting to ruin the environment. Thousands of colleges and universities carried out rallies in all towns and communities.
20 years on - as 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders asked Denis Hayes to organize another big campaign. This time, Earth Day went global: 200 million people in 141 countries took part which gave a massive boost to recycling efforts worldwide efforts worldwide and also paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
As the year 2000 approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign focusing on global warming and clean energy - and thanks to the internet (for the first time) this time 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries!
Earth day is now celebrated around the world every year and in so many different ways.
In Japan , there is a 2 day celebration in Tokyo where over 100,000 participate in family activities and learn about companies that are green.
India has a variety of Earth Day activities and encourages people to dress in green for the day. Also, the country puts on events that focus exclusively on protecting the Asian elephant, an endangered species.
The Philippines has marathons organised as part of Earth Day Celebrations to raise money for environmental causes.
In Moldova over 30 villages host events , including tree planting, clean-ups and building nesting boxes for birds.
So 50 years on, it seems the goal of the first Earth Day has been achieved it's aim in bringing environmental issues to governments and peoples minds. Huge changes have happened over that time, with the Clean Water act, Toxic substance act and many other laws being passed that have changed the face of the USA.
It has been calculated that all the new laws to improve the environment in the USA have saved 3.2million school days that would have been lost, 13million work days and 160,000 premature deaths.
And thanks to another act it pushed through - The Endangered Species Act : 291 species of animals close to extinction have been saved and 39 are off the near extinction list!
Thank you Mr Nelson and Mr Hayes!
Last Spring our free bedtime story book for your little ones was a beautifully illustrated opportunity to discuss and cover some of the issues in a child friendly way.
It also has lots of fab ideas about what you can do in life to help the planet. It’s sometimes difficult to work out how to cover pollution and extinction with children but we know these lofty issues are being talked about at schools and in playgrounds at a younger and younger age so hopefully with Henry at the helm it adds a lighter touch - certainly since we launched it, it has had the most downloads and reads and to this day we still sell more of this book than our others.
For this next month any books bought will have all proceeds donated to the World Wildlife Fund.