About Earth Day

Earth Day is a time to celebrate gains we have made and create new visions to accelerate environmental progress. Earth Day is a time to unite around new actions. Earth Day and every day is a time to act to protect our planet.

Get information about Ohlone's annual Earth Day/Week events.

Brief History of Earth Day

Earth Day, April 22, 1970 signified the birth of the modern environmental movement in the United States. Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a senator from Wisconsin, recalls his motivation for proposing the first nationwide environmental protest: "The objective was to organize a national demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda. It was a gamble, but it worked.”

At the time, Americans were powering their vehicles with leaded gasoline. Growing industries belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the price of prosperity. Earth Day turned all that around.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate on behalf of a healthy, sustainable environment. Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities held protests against the degradation of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, raw sewage, toxic dumps, heavily polluting factories and power plants, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

"Conservatives were for it. Liberals were for it. Democrats, Republicans and Independents were for it. So were the ins, the outs, the Executive and Legislative branches of government." (New York Times) Earth Day achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from both major political parties, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, businesses and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 200 million people from 141 nations participating. Thousands of activities took place worldwide, including demonstrations, tree plantings, river clean-ups, cultural events and government-sponsored initiatives. This international groundswell of concern for the environment elevated the status of environmental issues on the world stage and led many governments to create agencies for environmental protection.

Adopted from Earth Day Network.

Learn more at History of Earth Day (by the EPA).