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This Day in History

World History

Wednesday, April 22, 1970. :   The first annual "Earth Day" is held.

     Earth Day is an annual day observed in over 175 countries, designed to increase people's awareness and appreciation of the natural environment. The concept of Earth Day was developed by US Senator Gaylord Nelson in response to the devastation caused by the widespread 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Senator Nelson used the ideas from student anti-Vietnam war movements which organised teach-ins to call for an "environmental teach-in". This event, which became the first annual Earth Day, was held on 22 April 1970.

Nelson first conceived the idea in September 1969 after he was made aware of the environmental disaster of the Californian oil spill. The concept of a national environmental teach-in was spread to college and university campuses across the US, where student organisers took up the challenge to educate others about the dangers to the environment posed by modern society. An estimated 20 million people participated that first year. For the first two decades, the movement was restricted to the US, but in 1990, it was taken abroad to 144 other countries.

There was, in fact, another Earth Day which preceded the inaugural annual observance. On 21 March 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, San Francisco and several other cities celebrated Earth Day. This event was said to have been pioneered by John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco. However, the scale of the Earth Day held a month later eclipsed McConnell's event.

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