When and Why
Earth Day Started

Earth Day was established to shed light on the global environmental decline phenomenon. In response to unacceptable conditions, the first Earth Day was a protest to demand a better future for us and the generations to come.

Every Earth Month, we celebrate our beautiful planet and all of the incredible life it sustains. It’s important now more than ever to acknowledge that our work isn’t done and, most importantly, to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Why Was Earth Day Created?

To Unite People Who Care About the Planet, Wildlife, and People

In the years and decades leading up to the first Earth Day in April of 1970, Americans lived in conditions detrimental to their well-being and planet. There was little consequence for the companies and organizations contributing to the environmental crisis.

Who Created Earth Day?

After witnessing a massive oil spill in California in 1969, US Senator Gaylord Nelson was driven to do something. He was inspired by the student anti-war movement and protests to mobilize against environmental destruction. 

An Environmental Protest

It started on the ground with a limited number of people who organized and rallied behind an important cause. The situation was dire and the message inarguably resonated with the masses because on April 22, 1970, 20 million people in America (10% of the population at the time) took to the streets in protest.

Just months after the protest, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in the US, which would regulate threats to the environment such as auto emissions, Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT), toxic waste, plastic pollution, and much more.

On that day half a century ago, 20 million people demanded change. So much can be accomplished when humanity comes together and joins forces peacefully.

The Start of Environmental Action

This event is credited as the beginning of a wave of environmental action. It was the force behind the passage of many landmark laws in the US, including the “Clean Air Act” and the “Clean Water Act,” as well as animal protection laws such as the “Endangered Species Act” and the “Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act” which protects whales, dolphins, seals, and manatees.

When Did Earth Day Start?

The modern environmental movement that followed is thanks to this first-ever organization of Earth Day. In 1990, Earth Day went global and mobilized 200 million people in 141 countries, and today it is recognized as the world’s largest civic event.

1992 Climate Change Convention in Rio

In 1992, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hosted the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. This was the third Earth Summit, a meeting of world leaders every ten years that started in 1972. It was here that many countries agreed to begin working together to address climate change and achieved an agreement on the Climate Change Convention, which led to the Kyoto Protocol that same year and eventually the Paris Agreement.

The 2016 Paris Agreement

Following the USA’s lead of policy creation in response to the movement, many countries soon followed suit. Symbolically, the United Nations chose Earth Day 2016 as the day the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed. Today, 187 countries are still formally committed to the agreement, though commitment progress has been slow.

Earth Day & Earth Month: The Environment Today

There have been many change-makers fighting for climate action and the environment throughout the years. Some are prominent, outspoken leaders, and others are quieter grass-roots organizations and individuals, and everyone is vital. While the work doesn’t begin and end in April, Earth Month reminds us that we must all stand and do our part.