“If, having endured much, we have at last asserted our “right to know,” and if by knowing, we have concluded that we are being asked to take senseless and frightening risks, then we should no longer accept the counsel of those who tell us that we must fill our world with poisonous chemicals; we should look about and see what other course is open to us.”
― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.”
― Gaylord Nelson
A Brief Primer on Earth Day History
The Earth Day movement paved the way for a myriad of modern protections and amenities that many Americans take for granted today:
- Nixon’s formation of the EPA
- The Clean Air Act
- The Clean Water Act
- The Endangered Species Act
- In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement.
There are two critical figures we need to shine the spotlight on to fully understand how Earth Day came to be.
If one takes a quick look at the history books, they’ll find that both Rachel Carson and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had a monumental role in the inception of Earth Day.
Senator Gaylord Nelson
Senator Nelson was Earth Day’s official progenitor. In 1969, he proposed an idea for a sizable, capacious grassroots movement… he dubbed it Earth Day. This was a way for the nation to look at the establishment in the eyes and say “no more”. No more toxic practices, no more spurious waste disposal, no more business at the expense of others’ health.
Shortly later in 1970, 20 million Americans stood together in defiance at the current system — and Earth Day was officially born.
Author and activist Rachel Carson had a more nuanced role in Earth Day’s commencement.
Her book, Silent Spring, was published in 1962. It was a commentary on harmful pesticide (namely, DDT) and environmental practices. Throughout the book, she asked what the proper relationship was between nature and man. While a book like this may seem commonplace today, Silent Spring was largely seen then as novel and even alarming.
President John F. Kennedy even asked the President’s Science Advisory Committee to examine the issues raised in Silent Spring. Carson kickstarted a movement, and folks like Senator Nelson and other grassroots activists latched on.
What About “Modern” Earth Day?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much impact Earth Day has had on the world.
But we know it’s significant. And we know that many of the world’s businesses, our shared mind for innovation, and a vision of a greener future can be attributed to movements like these focused on environmental sustainability.
We hope you have a great and green Earth Day!
👇 Below are a few links for you to check out if you want to dig in to some good reads on sustainability: