Earth Day: a history lesson

April 22, 2020

Did you know 2020 marks 50 years of Earth Day? Earth Day was founded in 1970 by Wisconsin U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson. He was inspired to do something drastic after witnessing a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. At the time, a student anti-war moment was in full effect and Senator Nelson had the great idea of using that energy for public awareness around air and water pollution, which could force environmental protection onto the political agenda. Senator Nelson assembled a team and chose April 22 as the day.

The first Earth Day united individuals across political parties, ages, races, and vocations. Everyone came together to demonstrate for a healthier, sustainable environment through rallies and protests. The first Earth Day led to the creating of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 

In 1990, Denis Hayes, a national coordinator for the very first Earth Day, organized another major campaign. Earth Day went global and gave a boost to recycling efforts and helped inspire the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. President Bill Clinton also awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as the Earth Day founder.

In 2000, Hayes headed another campaign focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. By leveraging the power of the internet, 184 countries were involved in both global and local conversations. 2010 marked the year the Earth Day Network reestablished Earth Day as a major moment for global action for the environment. The network brought 250,000 people to the National Mall for a climate rally and started the global tree planting initiative now known as The Canopy Project. Earth Day Network also created A Billion Acts of Green, an environmental service project, that engaged partners across 192 countries.

This year, the Earth Day Network has chosen “climate action” as the theme for Earth Day 2020. Learn more about the goals and action plan in place to make this year’s Earth Day historic. 

Just like Earth Day was inspired and born from a need for environmental change and advocacy, Slipstream’s history shares those same tenants. This year marks Slipstream’s 40th anniversary. Two organizations, with two rich histories, came together to multiply the impact on the biggest issue of our time. Our histories have shaped us and provided us experience to be the organization we are today – full of motivation to find solutions that move us faster toward a clean energy economy. Check out our timeline to see pivotal dates that span our 40-year history as well as our predictions for what we hope to accomplish by 2030