globe with earth day logo

Earth Week: Day 1 – The Birthday of Earth Day

Many consider April 22, 1970, to be the day that the modern environmental movement was born – it is the birthday of Earth Day. This year is the 50th anniversary, so we at Rocket Yard decided to expand our scope and recognize Earth Day all week. An “Earth Week” if you will.

OWC is very proud of its environmental initiatives, so we will be posting something “green” every day. We believe that environmental stewardship is not only the right thing to do for future generations but also makes good economic sense. But before we jump into how OWC is doing its part, we’ll begin with a little Earth Day history.

A Brief History of Earth Day

Crowd gathered for earth day 1970

It’s hard to believe that in 1970, there was no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act, and no EPA. Factories could belch smoke into the air and dump toxic sludge into waterways without consequence. This began to change when Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson, created Earth Day as a way to force these issues onto the national agenda.

It was wildly successful. 20 million Americans (10% of the U.S. population) were inspired to take to the streets, gather on campuses, and fill auditoriums to demonstrate against the destructive impact that 150 years of industrialization had had on the nation. There was broad united support for the efforts of that first Earth Day. Efforts that Republicans and Democrats, business owners and laborers, city-folk and farmers, rich and poor, could all get around. By the end of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was born.

In a 1980 EPA Journal article, Nelson writes, “It was on that day that Americans made it clear that they understood and were deeply concerned over the deterioration of our environment and the mindless dissipation of our resources. That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America. It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the Nation. That was the important objective and achievement of Earth Day. It showed the political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too.”

Walter Cronkite (CBS News) reports on the first Earth Day in 1970

In 1990, Earth Day went global. Over 200 million people in 141 countries joined the ranks of those already lifting environmental concerns to communities and governments. Today, more than one billion people in 191 countries are involved in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.

Climate Action is the theme of Earth Day 2020. Focussing on the “The Great Global Cleanup,” individuals and groups commit to clearing trash from cities and countrysides world-wide. However, due to COVID-19 concerns, it has been postponed until a later date. EarthDay.org still hopes it will be the largest volunteer event in history.

Earth Week 2020 @ OWC
Day 1 – The Birthday of Earth Day
Day 2 – OWC’s Rich History of Sustainable Business Practices
Day 3 – OWC Celebrates Earth Day’s 50th With Continued Green Leadership
Day 4 – OWC Supports Projects Promoting Environmental Awareness

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OWC Mark C
the authorOWC Mark C
Content Marketing Manager
A creative by nature, Mark is a writer, programmer, web developer, musician, culinary craftsman, and interpersonal artisan. He loves the outdoors because greenspace is to the soul as whitespace is to the written word. He does not like Diophantine geometry or mosquitos. Most everything else is okay. Oh yeah, he is also the managing editor of the Rocket Yard blog.

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4 Comments

  • It’s hard to understand how the “Birthday of Earth Day” could omit its genesis in Santa Barbara a year prior. This article should be edited to include this.

    The oil spill

    To understand how Santa Barbara became the home of one of the most highly attended, most consistently held community-based Earth Day festivals on the West Coast, one needs to go back to the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.

    Or rather, a year before that — because the story of this annual celebration actually started with a tragedy.

    On January 28, 1969, an oil platform six miles off of Santa Barbara’s coast ruptured, sending 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil into the Santa Barbara Channel over the next 10 days. The oil spread from Goleta to Ventura, killing thousands of sea birds, as well as dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions.

    “It’s hard to imagine today, but at the time it was the largest oil spill in the U.S.,” said Marc McGinnes, retired UCSB Environmental Studies Program professor. (Today the Santa Barbara spill ranks third behind the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989.) “What we now know as the environmental movement was just emerging. It was events like this and fires burning on the Cuyahoga River that got people’s attention.”

    This was the genesis of the movement and it’s disappointing to see this tragedy and how it was ultimately dealt with (EPA was formed for one…) omitted here.