Earth Day Celebrated Coast to Coast

April 24, 2012 Updated: April 24, 2012
Earth Day flag designed by John McConnell
An image of the Earth Day flag designed by John McConnell, an activist who was the founder and creator of Earth Day. (Public Domain)

Earth Day has steadily grown in popularity since its inception on April 22, 1970. Earth Day today is bigger than ever with public events sponsored by private and government groups alike spanning the country.

“Earth Day 2012s main theme is to mobilize the earth,” said Earth Day Network’s Brian Buchanan. “The idea this year is that they want to make enough noise that world leaders will pay attention.”

Claiming to be the “largest combined Earth Day celebration in North America,” the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is hosting its annual Earth Day Party for the Planet throughout the country.

Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, N.J., and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo at Burnet Park in Syracuse are area participants. In the nation’s capital, the National Zoo will participate this Sunday (Earth Day) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (EDT). Like most Earth Day celebrations, Party for the Planet will be free.

Many of the Earth Day events include conservation efforts in place of festivities.

Parkville, Mo., for example, wrapped up April 12, 2012 with a dual-purpose tree-planting project: to help recognize Earth Day, and restore the city’s English Landing Park.

A volunteer plants a tomato
A volunteer plants a tomato while building a community garden on plot of land in Oakland, Calif., during a past April 22 Earth Day event. From large gatherings to small tree plantings and community gardens, Americans across the country will be recognizing Earth Day this Sunday. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Last year’s Missouri River flooding destroyed 100 English Landing Park trees within its 68-acres. Residents, city officials, girl scouts, and the local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 branch participated in the project.

On the West Coast, the University of Washington (UW) will be celebrating Earth Day as part of their 150-year anniversary. Events include a campus cleanup sponsored by Honest Tea.

The conservation group The Nature Conservancy is attempting to reach a Guinness World Record by hosting the largest number of people picnicking in a 24-hour period from 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday.

The Earth Day Network will additionally present its campaign A Billion Acts of Green at the Earth Day Party on Sunday, which will be a worldwide webcast. A Billion Acts of Green will document individuals, major corporations, and governments incorporating green sustainability measures, according to Buchanan. Started in 2010, Earth Day Network has received 970 million pledged acts of “green” from people supporting the initiative, according to the advocacy group.

Earth Day Network’s website recounts the history of Earth Day began with a book in 1962 called “Silent Spring.” Written by Rachel Carson, the book became a New York Times bestseller and is credited by Earth Day Network as being the first to bring environmental awareness to public minds.

“Silent Spring,” in conjunction with the growing hippie movement of the 1960s, set a perfect climate for environmentalism. But, it was not until the 1969 Santa Barbara, Calif., oil spill that Earth Day would blossom.

The California oil spill inspired then U.S. senator and former Wisconsin Gov. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) to use the same student anti-war movement methods of the 60s to bring environmental awareness to the public as well as the political scene. Together with then-Congressman Pete McCloskey (R-Calif.) and first Earth Day coordinator and former head of the Solar Energy Research Institute Dennis Hayes, the group made Earth Day 1970 a bipartisan rally. That day 20 million Americans filled streets and auditoriums across the nation.