Sustainability Blog

The Day the Earth Still Stands

By Apurva Gosalia - Apr 22, 2022

Today is the 52nd Earth Day, a global event held every year to demonstrate support for environmental protection. This year’s Earth Day is themed “Invest in Our Planet.” It calls for businesses and governments to focus on responsible investment and make investment choices that benefit the planet rather than harm it.

First held on April 22, 1970, it now includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.Org including one billion people in more than 193 countries.

Peace activist John McConnell first proposed a day to celebrate the planet at a Unesco conference in San Francisco in 1969. He recommended a global holiday to recognize Earth’s life and beauty and to advance peace. Along with the celebration of life on Earth, he intended the day to alert people to the need for preserving and renewing the threatened ecological balance upon which all life on Earth depended.

The proposal won strong support and was followed by a proclamation to “Honor the Earth” by the City of San Francisco on March 1, 1970. A celebration was held on March 21 – the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. 

A month later, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea to hold a nationwide environmental teach-in on April 22 that year. He hired a young activist, Denis Hayes, to be the national coordinator. Nelson and Hayes renamed the event “Earth Day.” 

Denis and his staff grew the event beyond the original idea for a teach-in to include the entire U.S. More than 20 million people poured onto the streets, and the first event remains the largest single-day protest in human history.

At first Earth Day was focused on the U.S. but in 1990, Hayes took it to the international stage and organized events in 141 nations. This global campaign also served to prepare for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

On Earth Day 2016, the U.S., the UK, China and 120 other countries signed the landmark Paris Agreement. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into force of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. Numerous communities engaged in actions for the entire week around Earth Day that were focused on the world’s environmental issues.

On Earth Day 2020, more than 100 million people around the world observed the 50th anniversary. It was thought to be the largest online mass mobilization in history.

Last year, Earth Day took place during what I called the “Spring of Sustainability” and was internationally themed “Restore Our Earth.” U.S. President Joe Biden invited 40 world leaders, including the heads of government of the 17 most important industrialized countries and emerging economies, to a two-day virtual summit on climate change beginning on Earth Day, in advance of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

In my opinion, “Invest in Our Planet” addresses the oil industry in particular, considering that the very first Earth Day was initially triggered by the Santa Barbara oil spill on January 28, 1969. A well off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, blew out and spewed more than 3 million gallons of oil, killing more than 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals and sea lions. Hayes said Nelson was inspired to create Earth Day upon seeing the 800-square-mile oil slick from an airplane

This year, EarthDay.Org urges 52 tips and actions for individuals, organizations and companies to make a difference. Tip #12 is: “Calculate Your Carbon Footprint.”


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2 replies on “The Day the Earth Still Stands”

Thank you for explaining the history of Earth Day. Like you said, it should have special resonance with the oil industry. A very nice blog, as usual!

Thank you for explaining the history of Earth Day. I had no idea the notion started after the Santa Barbara oil spill such a long time ago—I thought it was a lot more recent. A nice blog, as usual!

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