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The History of Earth Day by way of an Oil Spill?

Since April 22, 1970, millions across our planet have celebrated the annual day of environmental awareness.  We see advertisements asking us to be more planet friendly and to reduce, reuse and recycle. But how and why did it start?

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Back in early 1969, an uncontrolled release of oil, 6 miles off the coast near the city of Santa Barbara in Southern California, occurred and spilled more than 3 million gallons into the waters.  This was the largest oil spill in the United States at the time, only to be eclipsed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and 1989 Exxon Valdez spills. The spill in Santa Barbara resulted in killing over over 10000 birds, sea lions, dolphins and seals.

As a reaction to the events, several members of the community and those around the United States were inspired to create a day of environmental awareness.  Among those that pushed towards such a day included Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, Bud Bottoms and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson.

On the first anniversary of the oil spill, on January 28, 1970, the precursor of Earth Day, Environmental Rights Day, was celebrated in the Santa Barbara Channel.  This celebration eventually led to the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental law that promoted the enhancement of the environment, and it led to the first Earth Day celebration that occurred in 2000 colleges and universities.  According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Earth Day “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.”

A little known fact is that the week of April 19-25 was identified as the best week to celebrate Earth Day as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks.  Which we find odd since several religious holidays occur between April 18-21, 2019.

Since the events of 1969 and 1970 more than 193 countries have events that celebrate Earth Day.