You realize that on that little blue-and-white thing, there is everything that means anything to you — all history, music, poetry, art, death, birth, and love — all of it on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb.
— Rusty Schweickart, NASA Astronaut
Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Here is an excerpt about the history of this event from the Earth Day website:
Senator Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States. Then in January 1969, he and many others witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Nelson wanted to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media, and persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair. They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins and they choose April 22, a weekday falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, to maximize the greatest student participation. The event was called Earth Week.
Recognizing its potential to inspire all Americans, Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land and the effort soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations, faith groups, and others. They changed the name to Earth Day, which immediately sparked national media attention, and caught on across the country. Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment and there were massive coast-to-coast rallies in cities, towns, and communities.
As 1990 approached, a group of environmental leaders approached Denis Hayes to once again organize another major campaign for the planet. This time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest honor given to civilians in the United States — for his role as Earth Day founder.
Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national and local policy changes.
The theme for 2021 is Restore Our Earth. Visit the Earth Day website to learn more about how to be involved.
Blue Marble Earth Montage (Jan. 30, 2012) — Behold one of the more detailed images of Earth created yet. This image was created from photographs taken by the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on board the Suomi NPP satellite. The satellite is named after Verner Suomi, commonly deemed the father of satellite meteorology. Photo credit: NASA
Original broadcast of CBS News Special Report with Walter Cronkite about the first Earth Day, 1970.