Earth Day Celebrates 50 Years of Action


On April 22nd of every year more than one billion people from more than 190 countries around the globe celebrate Earth Day.

Recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, Earth Day is a day of action to promote environmental protection in daily life and public policy.

This year, April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day, often seen as the start of the modern environmental movement.

Earth Day Turns 50

On April 22, 1970, twenty million Americans across the country celebrated the first Earth Day, kicking off 50 years of environmental protection. The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came from Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin and Earth Day founder, after witnessing the negative impacts of an oil spill in California in 1969. The goal of the first Earth Day was to build on an emerging U.S. public consciousness about air and water pollution to force environmental protection onto the national public policy agenda.

Earth Day offered an opportunity for groups who had often been fighting individually against issues such as oil spills, polluting factories, toxic dumps, loss of wilderness habitat, extinction of wildlife and more to coalesce around the shared common values of environmental protection and sustainability. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.

In 1990, Earth Day became a worldwide movement, with more than 200 million people from 141 countries participating. In addition to promoting environmental protection, Earth Day 1990 began mobilizing around recycling efforts. Since 1990, the Earth Day focus has continued to expand, adding global warming, clean energy, tree planting, climate change, and other sustainability issues.

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is Climate Action and aims to raise awareness on the challenges and opportunities to take action on global climate change. Information for individuals and groups interested in participating in an Earth Day 2020 event can be found here. Resources for planning, joining, volunteering, and promoting an event are available. This year, in lieu of in person events, official Earth Day 2020 activities will go digital.

EarthFair in Balboa Park

The San Diego region has been a huge supporter of Earth Day with the annual EarthFair in Balboa Park. As the largest free annual environmental fair in the world, EarthFair draws approximately 50,000 visitors looking for ways to live a more sustainable life and support a clean, healthy, prosperous environment. This year, EarthFair 2020 will feature more than 300 exhibitors, international food courts, entertainment for families, Earth Day Parade, and arts, crafts and educational information on sustainable practices. Putting sustainability into practice, the goal of every EarthFair is to be a zero-waste event - so everything discarded will be either recycled, reused or composted. Last year, nearly 90% of EarthFair waste was diverted from the landfill!

As a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, EarthFair 2020 has been rescheduled from April 19 to September 13, 2020. This aligns with medical advice and restrictions on meeting in public in large groups. Opportunities to be an exhibitor, volunteer or sponsor are still available.

Festivities Go Digital

For those of you who would also like to commemorate Earth Day in April, a supplemental event is going digital! Expected to premier April 19, event organizers will launch an “E-EarthFair,” an online forum that will feature sustainable products, services, and causes of the EarthFair exhibitors.