Earth Day: A Billion Acts of Green

On April 22, millions of people will each make an active effort to appreciate the planet we live on. Earth Day is when you can raise your hand in support of Gaia. By Jeremy Torr

Singapore, 13 April 2011. For over 40 years, an ever-increasing number of people have been gathering and celebrating and contributing to Earth Day on April 22. Here’s how it started.

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The idea for Earth Awareness came from US Senator Gaylord Nelson, way back in 1962. His idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to the environmental issue by going on a national conservation tour – an idea which Kennedy jumped at and arranged a five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963.

Sadly, this idea was way ahead of its time, and did not result in getting conservation into the minds of people and politicians. But it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day. Across the US, evidence of environmental degradation was appearing, and everyone noticed except the political establishment. The environmental issue simply was not to be found on the nation's political agenda. The people were concerned, but the politicians were not.

Street Action

Senator Nelson first had the idea for Earth Day in 1962

Senator Nelson first had the idea for Earth Day in 1962

Six years later in 1969 the key for Earth Day occurred to him while on a conservation speaking tour. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called "teach-ins," had spread to college campuses all across the nation. “Suddenly, the idea occurred to me,” remembers Nelson. “Why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?”

Nelson announced the first nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment in 1970 - and invited everyone to participate. The response was electric. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. “People finally had a forum to express concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air,” explains Nelson. “They did so with spectacular exuberance.” The New York Times reported on it, radio and wire services announced it, local schools pledged to take part and the senator was overwhelmed.

“It was obvious that it was headed for a spectacular success. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquiries, and so on,” he says. But the remarkable thing about Earth Day was the spontaneous response at grassroots level.

President JFK was highly supportive of Nelson's original street-action idea

President JFK was highly supportive of Nelson's original street-action idea

“We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. The remarkable thing about Earth Day was that it organized itself.”

Remarkably, that is something it continues to do, with the reach of Earth Day now far beyond the local activist scene in the US. Earth Day is now global, supported by people who care in countries in every corner of the globe.

Earth Rocks!

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This year, the event will be based on the Billion Acts of Green® slogan. Billed as the largest environmental service campaign in the world it demonstrates the kind of environmental impact that can be made when millions of people, corporations and organisations make commitments, both small and large, to better their environment.

Elements of Earth Day 2011 include:

    •       Athletes for the Earth, where top athletes talk about the environment

    •       The Canopy Project, which supports global reforestation

    •       Green Schools, which aims to bring green awareness to all schools in a generation

    •       Women and Green Economy, where women leaders work to boost a green economy

    •       Creating Climate Wealth, an initiative to help solve climate change via a green economy

    •       Arts for the Earth which uses art to celebrate the Earth and environment

So why not get out there on April 22 and make your contribution to our planet. Just log on to the Earth Day website to pledge your ongoing support and find out what activities you can take part in. Click to