Earth Month

Earth Month

History and Fun Facts

4/9/2024 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

For Earth Month, we will be posting a bunch of different content for you to stay informed and get ideas about how to make a positive impact toward protecting the planet.

In this post, we will discuss the history behind Earth Day and Earth Month, highlighting some fun and interesting facts.

International Mother Earth Day was created on April 22, 1970. It was predicated by decades of Americans using large amounts of leaded gas through inefficient automobiles. Industries were releasing smoke and sludge without fear of consequences from the law, and air pollution was an indication of prosperity. Up until the early 1960s, mainstream America was largely oblivious to the ways a polluted environment impacts health and other environmental concerns.  

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring became a New York Times bestseller and sold more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries. It raised both public awareness and concern for living creatures, the environment, and the links between pollution and public health.


A junior senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson had also been concerned about these issues in the United States for quite some time. In January 1969, he witnessed the aftermath of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California and was inspired by the anti-war movement largely propelled by students. Nelson wanted to infuse this energy with an emerging public awareness about air and water pollution. He announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media and recruited young activist Denis Hayes to organize them. Together, they chose April 22nd, because it fell between Spring Break and Final Exams, and they thought that this lull would allow for maximum student participation.

Hayes recognized the potential for these teach-ins to inspire all Americans. He built a national staff to promote events across the land, and the effort soon broadened to include a variety of organizations, faith groups, and others. They changed the name to Earth Day in 1970, which generated national media attention and began to spread across the country. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans were inspired to take to the streets, parks, and auditoriums for demonstrations against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development that had left behind serious human health impacts. At the time, this was 10% of the total population.


In 1980, the principal Earth Day event held in Washington D.C. across from the White House marked a decade of substantial environmental legislation. This includes such acts as: The Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Superfund, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. It also saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the banning of DDT and lead in gasoline.

Earth Day continued to expand in the 1980s. As 1990 approached, another major campaign for the planet was organized. This time, Earth Day went truly global and mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries, bringing environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 boosted recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It was also on this year that April became Earth Month.


As the millennium approached, Hayes spearheaded a campaign that focused on global warming and pushed for clean energy. Earth Day 2000 used the internet to help link activists around the world, connecting 5,000 environmental groups worldwide and bringing them on board to reach out to hundreds of millions of people in 184 different countries. In 2010, Earth Day had its 40th anniversary, with nearly one billion people around the world taking action. An estimated 20,000 partners took action on climate change and other environmental issues through such things as climate rallies, Billion Acts of Green, and by engaging civil leaders in plans to build a greener economy. On Earth Day 2016, world leaders from 175 nations broke a record by signing the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change that covers mitigation, adaptation, and finance.

Earth Day celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the planned activities moved online. and a coalition of youth activists co-hosted Earth Day Live, which was a three-day livestream commemorating the anniversary. In total, over one billion people worldwide participated in Earth Day actions, and 100 million observed the anniversary in what is referred to as the largest online mass mobilization in history.


In the following posts, we will be sharing ideas for ways to get involved in Earth Month and Earth Day. We will also be having an in-person activity and prize giveaway on the days of April 20th-22nd. Stay tuned for more information on both!



Image Credit: Unsplash