Celebrated around the globe as the largest secular holiday in existence, Earth Day is a time to reflect, action, and change our environment for the good of our planet and the future. With events happening internationally, everyone has the opportunity to pitch in and try to save the planet and to ensure a cleaner, brighter future for generations to come.
It all began, as so many revolutions did, at the end of the 1960s. Social and cultural change was happening across America; the Vietnam War helped to mobilise millions of people into fighting against the powers that be, in order to achieve something just. People were also starting to focus on the effects of pollution on the planet, and the environmental damage that humans had been causing for generations.
There had been no end of environmental issues such as the use of pesticides and rising pollution due to the rise of oil use. One of these monumental catastrophes to nature happened in 1969. The Santa Barbara oil spill was a huge failure and impacted marine life to immeasurable levels. A blow out in the Santa Barbara Channel would have a devastating effect but ultimately would call people to action.
The oil spill covered 800 square miles with around 100,000 barrels of oil laying a crude blanket over the sea. It is unknown exactly how many animals died but the numbers are well into the thousands. An estimated 3,500 seabirds died, fish levels plummeted, as did dolphin numbers. The spill was so big that you could see it from a passing aeroplane, which is exactly what would be the spark for Earth Day.
Senator Gaylord Nelson was flying over the massive oil spill and was inspired to raise awareness about all issues affecting the environment and to teach the people what they should do in order to avert the climate crisis. The socially conscious 60s generation would be willing to change and they wanted to learn. All Nelson had to do is get a few people on board and start the new revolution.
After recruiting a team of environmental activists including organiser Denis Hayes, Nelson went about creating a day dedicated to teaching environmental awareness. Clearly it was the perfect time as 20 million people turned out across America to teach, learn, and protest. In fact it was so successful that the 70s would see the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act be introduced.
Since then Earth Day has grown and, along with it, environmental consciousness. We are now at a crucial turning point for our planet and perhaps, without Earth Day, we would’ve been there long ago. Earth Day is now celebrated in 193 countries with people banding together to clean up the planet, plant trees, and educate themselves and others. Earth Day is a time to remind all of us we have a duty to the planet and we’ve all got to do something to help.