Rachel Carson, who is often credited with the birth of the modern environmental movement with her publication of “Silent Spring” in 1962, spent much of her adult life in Maryland. She was a graduate biology/zoology student at Johns Hopkins University (a rare achievement for a woman in 1929), spent a great deal of time studying the Chesapeake Bay as an aquatic biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and kept her home in Silver Spring (which is where she wrote Silent Spring and spent her last days).
Why April 22nd? Believe it or not, the inspiration behind the first Earth Day in 1970 was Vietnam War protesters – here’s how: Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI), who already had a history of environmental activism, was so impressed with the energy and breadth of the anti-war movement on college campuses that he thought that it would make an ideal medium for bringing America’s consciousness about air and water pollution to a higher level. April 22nd was chosen as Earth Day because it was in between Spring Break and Final Exams, thus allowing as many students as possible to participate. And he was right. Gaylord Nelson also passed away in Maryland (Kensington, 1995).
April 22nd is also the anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary and leader of communism in Russia. In fact, Aprill 22nd, 1970 would have been his 100th birthday, leading many on the political right to view conservationists as closet communists, and Earth Day as a conspiracy to spread socialism in the United States. Gaylord Nelson was quick to point out that St Francis of Assisi (many consider the world’s first environmentalist) was born on April 22nd. As was J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day.
The first Earth Day was historic in getting over 20 million Americans to take to the streets to demonstrate, participate in nature walks, hold concerts, hear speeches, and participate in many other civic activities. This resulted in unprecedented passage of landmark environmental legislation including The Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, and The Endangered Species Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, Earth Day has grown to an international movement with nearly 200 nations and more than 1 billion citizens participating. It is now known globally as “International Mother Earth Day,” and is the largest secular holiday in the world.
Every Earth Day since 2016 has had a theme that is meant to resonate throughout the entire year, making every day Earth Day:
· 2016: Trees for the Earth! Tree planting fights climate change and pollution, protects biodiversity and prevents erosion of soil.
· 2017: Environmental and Climate literacy – simply put, education is the key to progress
· 2018: End Plastic Pollution
· 2019: Protect our Species
· 2020: 50th Anniversary – Climate Action