Senator Gaylord Nelson of the United States founded Earth Day. Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the United States. Across the United States, 20 million people and thousands of local schools and communities participated in the first Earth Day. The huge turnout for the first Earth Day made it the largest organized celebration in the history of the United States. Earth Day’s success helped influence the government of the United States to create stronger laws to protect the environment.
Earth Day Goes International
On March 21, 1971, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General U Thant made Earth Day an international celebration. He spoke about it at a Peace Bell Ceremony at the United Nations in New York City. The United Nations Earth Day ceremony continues each year on the day of the vernal equinox (March 20th or 21st), with the ringing of the UN Peace Bell at the very moment of the equinox.
A Turnout of 200 Million!
In 1990, the first official International Earth Day was celebrated. About 200 million people from 141 nations took part in a celebration of environmental conservation. In many countries, the global event reminded presidents and other national leaders how important protecting Earth is to people.
A Summit to Save the Planet
Many of these leaders later took part in the first United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. At the summit, global problems such as climate change and the worldwide loss of indigenous cultures and wild species were discussed.
Why Celebrate Earth Day?
Earth Day reminds us we all share the same planet. Sharing Earth means taking responsibility for what we use and how we use it. It is a day to think of the environmental challenges we face and how to solve them. Protecting Earth is every person’s and every country’s responsibility.
Parties All Around the Globe
People traditionally celebrate Earth Day with the ringing of bells, often bells of peace. The tradition of bell ringing is practiced all over the world on Earth Day. Representatives from Palestine, Austria, and Russia have all rung a Peace Bell in a ceremony celebrating the protection of the environment and of Earth’s many species.
A Rally in India
In India, one Earth Day was celebrated by approximately 1,200 kids. They held a rally during which they carried signs with slogans and messages about preserving all of nature. The children also performed skits about the environment. The India Habitat Center held painting and quiz competitions. At other events, kids presented a “Children’s Clean Air Manifesto” to the president’s wife. Then they held a Children’s Bicycle Rally to promote nonpolluting forms of transportation.