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Earth Day - April 22nd: Home

Why Earth Day?

earth day april 22

During the 1960's environmental issues were not part of Americans' concerns. V8 sedans that consumed leaded gas were the norm, industries produced polluting smoke and all kind of sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press coverage, and pollution was considered a sign of prosperity. But by the end of that decade different voices and movements started to raise awareness about the dangers of  modern industry to the environment.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace during the first day of the March equinox. This day was sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by UN General Secretary, U Thant, on February 26, 1971. United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year on the day of the March equinox.

Meanwhile, Denis Hayes was promoting the celebration of Earth Day since 1969 among colleges and universities. The first Earth Day was founded by US Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in event on April 22, 1970 with Denis Hayes and the Earth Day Network as coordinators of national activities. More than 20 million Americans participated in the events that day. The celebrations focused on the United States, but in 1990 the movement went international celebrating events in 141 countries, and today is celebrated by over one billion people each year around the world, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

For some time, the celebration was called National Environmental Teach-in and Earth Day simultaneously, but as Hayes used the latest in his communications and press coverage of the events, the name stuck and it is now the official name for the celebration.

According to Senator Nelson, he choose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses as he envisioned the celebration as teach-in events; he determined the week of April 19-25 was the best choice because it did not fall during exams or spring break, it did not conflict with any religious holidays, and was late enough in Spring to have decent weather.

The goal of the Earth Day is to inspire awareness and appreciation for the environment.

Chronology of Environmental Policies


  • 20 million celebrated the first Earth Day on April 22nd, 1970.
  • President Richard Nixon creates EPA with a mission to protect the environment and public health.
  • US Congress amends the Clean Air Act to set national air quality, auto emission, and anti-pollution standards.


  • Congress restricts use of lead-based paint in residences, and on cribs and toys.


  • Congress passes the Clean Water Act, limiting raw sewage and other pollutants flowing into rivers, lakes and streams. In 1972, only 36% of the nation's assessed stream miles were safe for uses such as fishing and swimming; today, about 60% are safe for such uses.
  • The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) was created by the Clean Water Act to protect surface waters connected to navigable bodies of water.
  • EPA bands DDT, a cancer-causing pesticide, and requires extensive review of all pesticides. In 1996, the bald eagle was removed from the endangered species list, reflecting its recovery since the 1972 DDT ban.



  • Congress establishes fuel economy standards and ses tail-pipe emission standards for cars, resulting in the introduction of catalytic converters.


  • The federal government bans clorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as propellants in aeroson cans because CFCs destroy the ozone layer;,which protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.


  • EPA encourages homeowners to test for randon gas, which causes lung cancer. To date, more than 18 million homes have been tested for randon. Approximately 575 lives are saved annually due to randon mitigation and randon-resistant new construction.


  • President George Busch signs the Pollution Prevention Act, emphasizing the importance of preventing -not just correcting- environmental damage.


  • EPA launches the Energy Star program to help consumers identify energy-efficient products.


  • President Clinton directs the federal government to use its $200 billion annual purchasing power to buy recycled and environmentally preferable products.


  • EPA issues new standards for chemical plants that will reduce toxic air pollution by more than half a million tons each year -the equivalent of taking 38 million vehicles off the road annually.


  • President Clinton signs the Food Quality Protection Act to tighten standards for pesticides used to grow food, with special protections to ensure that foods are safe for children to eat.
  • Public drinking water suppliers are required to inform customers about chemicals and microbes in their water, and funding is made available to upgrade water treatment plants.


  • More than 4,000 school buses were retrofitted through the Clean School Bus USA program, removing 200,000 pounds of particular matter from the air over the next 10 years.


  • Water Sense is launched to rise awareness about the importance of water efficiency, ensure the performance of water-efficient products and provide good consumer information.

Subject Guide

Adria Leal (MDC)'s picture
Adria Leal (MDC)
Wolfson Campus Library
300 NE 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33132

April Display

This Research guide was created to support Wolfson Campus Library's April Display celebrating Earth Day, but it also contains information to help with any research about the environment and the Earth eco-system.

For more information you can consult the following Research guides:

Climate Change Resources

EAP0400 - Understanding "Carbon Footprint"

Endangered Species

Florida's Everglades

Global Warming

Mangroves and Ecosystems - The Reclamation Project

Solar Lantern for Learning

Water Ethic Resources

Water Issues in South Florida