As the vernal equinox has just passed, the weather is improving and tidings of an impending summer are in the air. In less than a month, environmentally-conscious citizens and nature lovers everywhere will be given a day to celebrate that which guarantees our very survival- our wonderful planet. As you prepare for Earth Day celebrations, here are a few fun facts about the day and its origins that may surprise you.
1. The idea for Earth Day was first started by a Wisconsin senator.
In 1972, Wisconsin United States Senator Gaylord Nelson first conceived of the idea of having a nationwide day that took a hard look at environmental degradation. By galvanizing mostly college and high school students and teachers throughout the nation, Nelson envisioned a day-long teach-in, modeled after the Vietnam War teach-ins, in which lecturers, students, and community members would gather to discuss environmental activism.
2. The first Earth Day was coincidentally held on a Lenin's 100th birthday, leading many to believe in a communist conspiracy.
Ah, the Cold War days. Although Nelson had planned for Earth Day to be held in late April, when exams and vacations wouldn't interfere with observing the day on college campuses, his plan somewhat backfired when the first Earth Day happened to fall on the centennial of Lenin's birthday. A Time magazine article reported that there were allegations of a communist plot. A delegate from the conservative group, the Daughters of the Revolution was quoted as saying, "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."
3. The first Earth Day drew together 20 million participants on a grassroots level.
More interesting than the plans that were made to make the first Earth Day a success, was the enormous turnout that the day garnered. An estimated twenty million people from thousands of universities and high schools across the country participated, gathering to discuss and protest issues like oil spills, pesticides, the pollution from factories and power plants, the destruction of wilderness, and more.
4. The international UN-organized Earth Day traditionally takes place on the vernal equinox.
While the April 22 celebration has also become an international event, a separate holiday was first introduced during the UNESCO Conference for the Environment in 1969 and came to fruition in the spring of 1972 when the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim observed the holiday. The event is often planned in conjunction with the April Earth Day, and traditionally the Japanese Peace Bell is wrung to commemorate the beginning of spring and promote respect for the planet earth.
These are just a few interesting facts about Earth Day. For more information on the day's full history, check out the Wikipedia entry as well as this History Channel webpage.