April 22 is Earth Day, a celebration of our amazing planet and chance to learn how we can best care for it. Here are some facts about the history of Earth Day and events marking the occasion this year.
* The first celebration of Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, making 2014’s observance the 44th anniversary of Earth Day.
* Earth Day was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin who wanted to respond to an oil spill off Santa Barbara, California. President Bill Clinton awarded Sen. Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 for his role as Earth Day founder.
* The first Earth Day got a lot of attention when more than 20 million people participated and by the end of 1970, Congress authorized the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
* Although Earth Day originated in the United States, it went global in 1990 with 140 countries participating. In 2000, more than 180 countries participated.
* Chicago made a big splash on Earth Day 2007 with festivities at Lincoln Park Zoo drawing more than 40,000 people, a single-day attendance record.
* In 2009, the United Nations renamed Earth Day and now calls it International Mother Earth Day. That name doesn’t appear to be catching in the U.S.
* Earth Day Network members host 10,000 Earth Day events around the world. The theme of the 2014 Earth Day is Green Cities and you can find a listing of events around the world here.
* NASA is paritcipate in Earth Day this year with the agency’s #GlobalSelfie event, asking people to take a photo of themselves outside and post it to social media using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. NASA will use the images to create a mosaic image of Earth — a new “Blue Marble” built bit by bit with your photos. Get more info on how to participate here.
* The annual Lyrid meteor shower will peak in the early hours of Earth Day but will be visible most of the week, although a bright moon or weather may obscure the view. Still, with 10-20 meteors an hour possible, looks like this year Earth Night could be as exciting as Earth Day.
* Homes and cars account for half of all American greenhouse gas emissions. The Earth Day EnergyCenter can help you develop a plan to reduce that.
DisneyNature released its film “Bears” to coincide with Earth Day. Read our family movie review of “Bears” here.
Click here for Earth Day activities for tweens and teens.
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