Yes, Earth Day was born in the Midwest! The concept for Earth Day originated in 1970 with Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Senator Nelson was greatly disheartened after witnessing a horrible 1969 oil spill that occurred in Santa Barbara, California. He decided to take action and help prevent future tragedies like the Santa Barbara oil spill and bring the world’s attention to the increasing damage that our pollution and apathy were causing our environment.
Over 20 million people across America participated on that first Earth Day in 1970. It was an even that crossed all boundaries of economic status, political affiliation and social position. Many people were now already experienced in protest and public outcry in the anti-war movement. With the road paved by Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” people were ready to take a stand in support of environment protection. Indeed, the first Earth Day led to the founding of The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passing of the Endangered Species, Clean Air and Clean Water acts.
Clearly, the time was right and Senator Nelson was ready to open the door to a new era of global consciousness. For more than 30 years, we’ve been celebrating Earth Day, thanks to Senator Nelson. In fact, in 1992 President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for being Earth Day’s founder. Senator Nelson’s contribution to our global well-being cannot be underestimated! As you celebrate Earth Day this year, reflect on the profound role that Senator Nelson and the Midwest have played in the increased, communal awareness of our Earth’s welfare.