Wonder why we observe Earth Day?


MORROW COUNTY — Earth Day, now a global celebration, is officially April 22 this year; but in the Crawford County and Morrow County area, the event can be observed at Eco Center LLC in Caledonia on Saturday, April 30 (See separate event article).

The first Earth Day event was held on March 21, 1970.

Who to attribute the day’s founding to is contested in even official sources, though it appears there is some rewriting of history and many national sources disregard the first Earth Day that was held that March.

It is touted as the brainchild of John McConnell, a newspaper publisher and peace and environmental activist. He proposed a global holiday called Earth Day at a UNESCO conference in 1969. But U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is also credited with conceiving the idea for the first Earth Day celebration in the United States.

McConnell dubbed the name Earth Day and proposed it be observed on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equinox was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. McDonnell also formed The Earth Society Foundation and designed the Earth Day flag.

A month later, Senator Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22, 1970. Nelson was inspired by the anti-Vietnam War movement of college students and wanted to ignite the same energy to raise awareness about pollution.

It’s curious that both men are separately attributed with founding Earth Day in credible sources.

Nelson, it appears, “jumped on the band wagon” and his more political fame suppressed the verifiable March observation.

It is rather reminiscent of the debate over who invented the light bulb: Swan, Edison or Tesla? But today that debate has been clarified—even at Edison’s birthplace in Milan, Ohio, they’ll tell you the history.

As for Earth Day…well, let’s continue.

Historically Earth Day came on the heels of events in the ’60s: the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 and the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962, which shed light on the destruction of pesticides like DDT. By 1967, the federal government had passed the first Clean Air Act, the first federal emissions standards and the first list of endangered species (including the bald eagle, America’s national symbol).

Regardless of who founded it, Earth Day has become a day that honors the achievements of the environmental movement and raises awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations.

With the impact of COVID-19 and the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this is a year much in need of a celebration of the Earth and its resources. The day is recognized by at least 192 countries. Interestingly, Gorbachev, former president of the former U.S.S.R., was the 36th and last signer of the actual Earth Day Proclamation, in 2000.

People of all ages, and often as local community gatherings, participate in Earth Day by hosting talks and workshops and cleaning up trash in public spaces. Individuals can contribute by recycling or planting trees — anything that helps protect and preserve our planet.


By Rhonda Bletner


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