Every year on April 22nd, individuals and organizations around the world participate in Earth Day, a day dedicated as a call to action for the environmental movement and devoted to honoring the Earth. The official Earth Day mission is “to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.” Currently, the movement has partners in over 192 countries, but it began as a smaller national movement in 1970…
History of Earth Day
The year 1969 was marked by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill and a fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio. The environmental science book Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, had been recently published in 1962. The Apollo 8 mission resulted in the 1968 Earthrise NASA photograph, the first photograph of the Earth from lunar orbit. These events sparked an environmental movement that culminated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. On this day, 20 million Americans participated peacefully “to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts.” Shortly after the first Earth Day, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created and multiple, groundbreaking pieces of environmental legislation were passed, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
Earth Day continued yearly national demonstrations and lectures, but in 1990 it finally reached an international audience. Over 200 million people participated in Earth Day events in 141 countries. These events are now organized by EARTHDAY.ORG across 192 countries. In past years, Earth Day has focused on themes such as global warming, clean energy, clean water, science and faith, trees for earth, climate literacy, plastic pollution, and species extinction, among others.
Earth Day 2021
The theme for Earth Day 2021 is Restore Our Earth: “We must Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health & survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option – it is a necessity.” There are five pillars of this year’s theme – The Canopy Project, Food and Environment, The Great Global Cleanup, Climate Literacy, and Global Earth Challenge – and multiple ways that you can participate in this year’s events!
How Can I Help?
As a home gardener, there are a few ways you can participate in Earth Day in your own backyard. First, you can contribute to Earth Day’s Billion Acts of Green campaign. You can follow one of the recommended actions, or create one of your own. Did you install a rain garden in your backyard? Register it! Did you remove invasive species and replace them with natives? Register it! Did you plant more Keystone Species? Register it! There are many small things you can do to contribute to this worldwide effort to restore green spaces.
You can also commit to planting a pollinator garden. Please remember that EARTHDAY.ORG is a global organization, so many of the pollinator-friendly plants they recommend are not native to the eastern United States. See Direct Native Plants’ selection of pollinator friendly plants here.
EATHDAY.ORG’s Canopy Project campaign focuses on large-scale tree plantings for reforestation and restoration. But you can help reconnect fragmented wild spaces by planting native trees and shrubs on your property. Every little bit helps!