This past Saturday, April 22nd, which also coincidentally happened to be the same day as the March for Science, Earth Day was celebrated internationally across an official network of 192 countries. Considering the fact that only 196 countries (195, depending on how you classify Taiwan) populate the Earth, it is fairly impressive that the campaign has gathered such international support. This year’s events and activities focused on environmental and climate literacy.The thought process behind placing emphasis on environmental and climate literacy was that by through further education on environmental and climate related topics, desire for action to protect the environment would flourish, creating green voters and in turn, advancing related policies and laws and sustainable technologies.
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22nd, 1970 after a suggestion for a day to be set aside to honor the Earth and inspire peace at the 1969 UNESCO conference in San Francisco. While the proposal as initially from a peace activist, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson took that suggestion and made it into what we now know as Earth Day, a day meant to educate others about the environment. Nelson was inspired to start this grassroots movement after the devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Witnessing the damage done to the local ecosystem after the oil spill was the driving force in his initiative. By the time April 22nd came around, he had gathered support from about 20 million people across the United States, who all rallied and held talks in their respective areas about the environment and ways to protect the planet. Groups that were previously divided by specific causes they protested against, were united by their shared interests for the betterment of the environment through Earth Day. While Earth Day was initially celebrated across the United States, by 1990, the celebration reached international heights with nearly 200 million people across 141 countries celebrating the Earth and advocating on its behalf.
Since its international expansion, Earth Day has continued to grow as a celebration. Earth Day is even celebrated annually on our own campus. This year, Earth Day was obviously celebrated early such that students on campus and visiting students would be able to participate and hopefully, gain knowledge about the environment and climate. The 16th Annual Earth Day at S&T was planned for April 20th on the Havener Lawn; however, due to inclimate weather, booths and activities were moved inside to the Havener Atrium. Despite the change of location, the turnout was great. Campus organizations, such as the Water Environment Federation (WEF), participated in the event and created a welcoming and educational atmosphere for visitors. Over 900 young students from schools in areas surrounding Rolla visited our campus for Earth Day, where they learned about limiting the impact of their own carbon footprint. Outside of the herds of children, other visitors were also able to participate in the free celebration. All visitors were allowed to register for tours of Solar Village and Ecovillage, where they were able to tour S&T’s coveted solar-powered houses. All in all, Earth Day was a success here at S&T and more importantly, was successful nationally and internationally. The cross-programming of Earth Day and the March for Science in the United States especially brought large crowds to unite over an overlapping topic.