The History of Earth Day

U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (WI) organized the first Earth Day in 1970 as a way to force environmental issues onto the national political agenda. With the backdrop of the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and two prominent environmental disasters in 1969 – a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara and a fire on the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in Ohio – Sen. Nelson gained bipartisan support for a “national teach-in on the environment” set for April 22, 1970. The idea resulted in massive rallies across the country with more than 20 million Americans demanding action on the environment.

By December 1970, Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and subsequently passed legislation that laid the foundation for environmental regulation in the United States. As a leader in environmental policy, California followed suit and established complementary laws to care for our state. California’s pioneering spirit continues today with groundbreaking efforts to combat climate changereduce our reliance on landfills and create a sustainable future for generations to come.