The Earth got its own holiday in 1969, courtesy of peace activist John McConnell who died October 20, 2012 in Denver at the age of 97.
A grand idea for a holiday that celebrates the beauty of Earth and helps to unite mankind in promoting peace and preservation was devised in the late 1960s and presented in 1969 to the San Francisco UNESCO conference.
The idea was accepted and implemented the following year by the city of San Francisco on March 21st, the first day of spring.
Peace Activist John McConnell
McConnell, being raised on strong religious principles, had a long history of promoting stewardship and preservation of the Earth and saw it as a personal duty for humans to shoulder this burden with serious regard. Despite the religious nature for the origin of his idea, McConnell recognized the importance of creating this as a secular holiday to include the most participants as possible. This openness has helped Earth Day to become recognized as the largest secular holiday in the world.
The First Earth Day
After months of planning in all corners of the globe, the first Earth Day was a huge success. This first occurrence was very much a grass-roots event that focused primarily on college students and other youth organizations spearheading the festivities and celebrations.
Following on the heels of the first wildly popular Earth Day celebration, United States Senator Gaylord Nelson picked up on the idea and garnered support to designate a yearly holiday on April 22nd. He felt most people would be able to participate on this day as it was a date chosen to fall around other spring holidays and events, such as Lent, Easter, and college exams.
Earth Day has remained an event that is led with primarily locally organized events. While there are some state and national governments that will lead celebrations, finding a local group or charity that has organized a day of service or charity is quite easy. The vast majority of youth groups, such as scouting and religious organizations, will have events sponsored along with schools, businesses, and even entire communities participating in service and awareness events. While all celebrations are not held directly on the April 22nd designated holiday, this is the general time planned for the events.
The tradition of a locally based but globally celebrated holiday has continued over the years, and events with all levels of involvement are easy for almost anyone to find no matter their location. Common activities include trail maintenance and clean up at local or national parks, litter removal groups, beautification projects, wildlife conservation efforts, as well as awareness and educational events.
In addition to local and national events, the United Nations recognizes Earth Day each spring equinox with the tolling of the UN Peace Bell located in New York City. This ringing marks one of two times each year the bell is rung. Other peace and church bells located around the globe are also rung in celebration on either the spring equinox or on the April 22nd holiday.