Written By: Laurel Kruke, Sustainability Manager
Did you know that Earth Day was started by a senator in Wisconsin? Or that Earth Day was originally an American event, and only went global in 1990? With Earth Day just around the corner (this Saturday, April 22), I thought I’d share a little history from the Earth Day Network, as well as some activity ideas for you to participate in over the next week (and anytime!).
The idea for Earth Day came to then-senator of Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, when he saw what happened because of a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA. Based on his experiences, he wanted to plan and engage the public in an environmental education “teach-in” and awareness campaign to highlight air and water pollution issues around the country. He engaged Pete McCloskey (a representative from California) and Denis Hayes (then a student at Harvard University) to help coordinate, and on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was born. Twenty million Americans participated in rallies, protests, and educational demonstrations, and came together on issues like oil spills, pollution, wildlife protection, and other environmental topics. The bi-partisan support of Earth Day paved the way for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. In 1990, Denis Hayes helped lead a bigger campaign to bring Earth Day to the international community. That year, 200 million people in 141 countries participated in events around the globe, and helped spread the message to a broader population. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is coming up in 2020, so we can expect lots of great things leading up to that momentous occasion.
There are many events going on in the Phoenix-area this weekend that you may want to check out to celebrate Earth Day with your family and friends. Here are just a few:
- Keep Phoenix Beautiful and Republic Services are sponsoring the 8th annual Earth Day Phoenix at Steele Indian School Park on Saturday, 4/22. There will be classes and workshops for all ages, music, food, exhibitors, and much more to help the whole family celebrate.
- The Phoenix Zoo is celebrating Earth Day on Saturday with special “Educational Earth Stations” set up around the zoo, native Arizona plant and animal species walking tours, animal behavior enrichment stations and demonstrations, music, classes, and artists displays.
- The Phoenix March for Science is also happening on Saturday, in conjunction with the March for Science being held in Washington D.C. This march is an opportunity to bring scientists, science educators, and science enthusiasts and supporters together for a fun-filled day to share the importance of science in our everyday lives.
There are also lots of great activities to do and books to read about the Earth and our environment. Plan to do one of these things with your family, friends, or classmates over the next week, and talk about what Earth Day means to you.
- Plant a tree or some flowers. There are lots of great native species of trees and plants that are great for our desert climate.
- Take a walk outside and learn about the natural environmental around you. There are many parks in the area that are great spots to spend time outdoors.
- Volunteer in your area to help clean up a community garden, local park, or your school to make sure that our environment stays clean, unpolluted, and healthy.
- Read a book about our environment, nature, and what it means to appreciate all that the Earth provides. Here are a few great classic children’s books (with links to lessons and associated activities) about our environment and protecting what we have: The Lorax, by Dr. Suess; The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein; and local favorite, Jeremy Jackrabbit, by Sasha and Rodney Glassman.
Enjoy your Earth Day, and be sure to share how you plan to celebrate with your friends and family so they can join you too!