Earth Day Pin From 1970

Earth Day Pin From 1970

This is an original Earth Day pin created for the first observance on April 22, 1970.

Since 1970, over 1 billion individuals have mobilized for action every Earth Day and over 190 countries have engaged in the observance. The first Earth Day was focused on the U.S. but it went international in 1990 with events hosted in 141 countries.

The History of Earth Day (Source:

Earth Day 1970 emerged out of a growing concern for our environment and how that environment affects human health. The publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962 set the stage for Earth Day by raising public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment, and the links between pollution and publich health. 

The idea for the first Earth Day originated from Senator Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, who had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment in the U.S. 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 cochair. 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.

Recognizing its potential to inspire all individuals in the U.S., Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the country 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. Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans (10% of the total U.S. population at that time) to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development that 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.

By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of new environmental laws, including the National Environmental Education Act,  the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act. Congress passed the Clean Water Act two years later, as well as the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act in the following year. These laws have protected millions of people from disease and death, and have protected hundreds of species from extinction.

In 1990, 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.

Over the decades, EARTHDAY.ORG has brought hundreds of millions of people into the environmental movement, creating opportunities for civic engagement and volunteerism. Earth Day has become a major stepping stone along the pathway of engagement around the protection of the planet. Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world and is a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national, and local policy changes.

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