Earth Day 2010: a history of four decades of environmental campaigning

Written by Andrew Hough | Telegraph on .

earth_day_2010This year is the 40th anniversary of the annual Earth Day, which raises awareness about environmental issues. Here is a brief history.

  • Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day's founder was a Democrat Governor of Wisconsin as well as a US Senator for the state. He died in 2005 aged 89.
  • He founded Earth Day as an environmental demonstration - similar to those about the Vietnam War – that was designed to be a "teach-in" on conservation issues.
  • Organisers say its premise was that "all people, regardless of race, gender, income, or geography, have a moral right to a healthy, sustainable environment".
  • The first Earth Day was held on April 22 1970 and more than 20 million American demonstrated including from students from 2,000 universities. It came after the idea was first floated in a speech by Nelson in September 1969.
  • This year organisers hope about 1.5 billion people will undertake more than 31 billion "acts of green" organised by 19,000 organisations in 190 countries.
  • Its first national co-ordinator was Denis Hayes, a former Stanford University student president who dropped out of Harvard's Kennedy School to join the campaign.
  • Nelson consolidated the success of the first event with the Environmental Education Act and in 1972 also helped found the National Environmental Education Act.
  • In December 1970, Congress authorised the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Some of the 58 members of its Global Advisory Committee include Carrie Lee Dobson, Nelson's wife, Al Gore, the former US Vice President, Princess Lalla Hasnaa Alaoui of Morocco, Sir Richard Branson, Leornardo DiCaprio, who is co-chairman, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, Barbara Streisand, the singer and Martin Scorsese, the acclaimed director.
  • This year, Earth Day 2010 will coincide with the World People's Conference on Climate Change, to be held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and with the International Year of Biodiversity.
  • A rally that is expected to attract tens of thousands of people will be held this weekend in Washington DC with speakers including James Cameron, the Titanic and Avatar director, The Rev Jessee Jackson while Sting will also sing,
  • President Obama has urged people to write to him with their Earth Day stories while US politicians are expected to release their long-awaited climate change bill in four days time.
  • Hollywood is producing 40 million pounds less trash as a result of the day while Peter Byck, a filmmaker, has produced a new film called "Carbon Nation" showing how people across America have successfully moved to a low carbon economy.

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