Celebrating 50 years of Earth Day

Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970, is celebrated in more than 193 countries worldwide in order to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It is now recognized as the largest people led event and is credited with launching the modern day environmental movement.

This year has seen the event’s 50th anniversary, and whilst we are all isolated due to Covid-19, it is important that we all still celebrate this important milestone of an event that has mobilised more than 1 billion individuals to celebrate and campaign for our environment. Recent years have seen an increased need for climate action and public interest in the environment, events like Earth Day help to publicise further and pressurise governments to implement change.

Biggest Achievements

In celebration of the 50th anniversary, we have put together 5 of some of the events biggest achievements;

  • Public Interest– The event has seen huge public involvement through it’s 50 year existence, with over 1 billion individuals involved. Originating in the USA, the first Earth Day saw 10% of the US population take part, and this has now grown to include people in 193 countries worldwide including the UK. This global effort has led to year wide interest and action on environmental issues from a grassroot level that has never been seen before, all as a result of the Earth Day movement. This public interest has led to public action, such as an increase in recycling efforts in the 90’s as a result of the coverage of Earth Day.
  • Government Action– The public interest and pressure on local and national governments has led to increased political interest and action in the environment. The first major step in this was the inception of the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 on the back of the demonstrations, with the UK having our own UK Environment Agency in 1995 and Committee on Climate Change in 2009. The UK also saw the International Institute for environment and development based in London in 1971 looking at building a more sustainable world.
  • Legislative Action– Various accords and legislation have been created on the back of the public need for environmental action due to Earth Day and other environmental movements. One major milestone was the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Act as a result of the 1970 movements. The UK has also been at the forefront of climate change legislation, such as with the Climate Change Act in 2008.
  • The Canopy Project– Earth Day started this project in 2010 with tens of millions of trees planted in order to filter air and counter the impacts of climate change. The original aim to plant a billion trees was met in 2012, and in honor of the 50th anniversary they have increased the project to a goal of 7.8 billion trees, one for every person on earth.
  • Summits– Earth Day has inspired many summits aimed at global cooperation on climate change and the environment. One of the first was the 1972 Stokholm Conference. Earth Day also paved the way for the 1992 UN Earth Day summit, which led to international cooperation on climate change and the environment, this was the one of the largest of many global gatherings from key policy makers influenced and inspired by Earth Day, including the Paris Climate Change Accords in 2016.

The future of Earth Day

We should all be proud of the impact this global people led environmental movement has had, and in recent years the publics interest in the environment has only intensified. This has seen a new wave of environmental activists, legislation and public engagement. It is important to consider how the movement can continue to inspire change, and continue to inspire us within the Built Environment to continue to design efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in line with the demands of today with an eye on the future climate.