The 40th Anniversary celebration of Earth Day presents another opportunity to reaffirm the goals of the worldwide environmental movement in the context of the origins of rising consciousness about the vital cause of saving the planet. The event is an occasion for the generations who established the concept of greater love, appreciation and awareness of Earth to join with new generations who pledge to keep the hope of a cleaner and more beautiful world alive.
The first Earth Day - in 1970 - was very much the direct extension of the gathering of 500,000 followers of Peace, Love and Music at the Woodstock Festival the previous summer, along with protests for human and civil rights and against the Vietnam War that had taken place throughout the '60's.
Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D - Wisconsin) had a vision for a national environmental teach-in that he proposed in the fall of 1969. By 22 April,1970 -established from that point on as Earth Day - over 20 million people in the United States took part in all forms of rallies, protests and forums to manifest their arrival as activists devoted to facing the challenges of preserving and protecting the planet head-on.
Responding rapidly to the widespread demand for greater environmental awareness and accountability, President Nixon and Congress established the United States Environmental Protection Agency - which was given responsibility for protecting land, air and water. The creation of the EPA was tied in to landmark legislation (The Clean Water Act) that significantly strengthened and expanded environmental laws that dated back to 1948.
Over the years, Earth Day has taken on ever-greater influence and meaning as the world has begun to come to terms with such issues as overpopulation, the need to preserve habitats and species, protecting the quality of land, air and water, and developing more environmentally friendly and sustainable means of providing food, energy and transportation throughout the globe.
The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year on the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere / late March. The Earth Day Network - founded on the first Earth Day - now reaches over 19,000 organisations in over 192 countries. The Network has helped to create Earth Day organisations throughout the world, and expects at least 1.5 billion people to take part in the 40th Anniversary events and celebrations this year. Earth Day Canada - founded in 1990 - has been recognised as a top environmental education organisation in North America. The fact that nearly a quarter of the world's population will be participating in Earth Day serves as an inspiration and a source of renewed dedication to the cause of environmental preservation.
As the awareness of Earth Day - and all it represents - continues to expand and evolve, the most important consideration is that greater global awareness and activism, from people of all ages and backgrounds, will give rise to increasingly meaningful results that will greatly improve the quality of the environment - and of life.