Heart shaped island of Galesnjak in Zadar archipelago aerial vie
© xbrchx

50 years of Earth Day: from student protests in 1970 to online movements in 2020

Written by
Lara Rasin

Happy Earth Day! Earth Day is observed by over one billion humans worldwide and today, it celebrates its 50th birthday.

Let's rewind 50 years

The early 20th century's industrial nature included cars that spewed gas pollution and factories that gushed smoke and sludge - all of which was often deemed a sign of success and prosperity. The mainstream population was mostly unaware of the need for any sort of environmental protection. One of the first steps toward public awareness was the 1962 publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which sold around 500,000 copies in 24 countries. The book helped raise awareness about the effects of pollution on health as well as nature. Then, in January of 1969, as many as 100,000 barrels of oil spilled into the ocean next to Santa Barbara, California. This devastated the area's marine life and appalled people worldwide. 

The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill© Heal The Bay

The growing public consciousness of the 1960s and 1970s about humanity's (negative) effects on the environment culminated in Earth Day. Then-senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin, a long-time proponent of nature protection, kicked off a program to organise environmental lectures across universities. He onboarded young activist Denis Hayes and they chose April 22 as the project date because of its convenience: as a weekday between spring break and final semester exams, most students would be on campus at that time. Students, who were already running anti-war protests, readily took on another cause. Soon after, Nelson and Hayes expanded the effort and dubbed it Earth Day. The movement branched across universities and organisations across the nation, and in 1970, 20 million U.S. citizens (10% of the country's population at the time) took to the streets to protest over a century of industrial harm.

Earth Day
Philadelphia’s Earth Day in April of 1970, attended by around 20,000 people© AP Photo / Bill Ingraham

1970's Earth Day caused rarely seen bipartisan agreement, and in the same year, spurred the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as the first passage of important environmental laws. The impact of Earth Day skyrocketed during the 1990s, when another campaign organised by Hayes mobilized 200 million people across 141 countries.

Earth Day has since been marked by communities worldwide each year.

Back to the present. What can we do today? 

Though we can't observe this year as we might have in the past, through group hangouts or volunteering in nature, we can plug in for the planet and participate in Earth Day online. Read on to find out what you can do through digital initiatives and events that have been launched for Earth Day in Croatia.

Watch documentary The Story of Plastic for free thanks to environmentalist group Zelena Akcija

Zelena Akcija ('Green Action') is a non-profit association founded in 1990 consisting of volunteers working toward environmental protection as well as promoting sustainable development in Croatia. The organisation is gifting you free viewing of documentary The Story of Plastic, focused on the negative effects plastic waste has on the EarthWatch for free until 8pm on April 24 by registering here. The film is shown in English with Croatian subtitles.

Plastic waste underwater plastic bag
© vilainecrevette

Symbolically adopt an animal through the World Wide Fund for Nature Adria

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Adria is a branch of the same-named global non-profit dedicated to environmental protection. You can symbolically adopt an animal, and in doing so, contribute to the well-being of wildlife through their website. Animals available are: a panda, bee, sea turtle, wolf, polar bear, lynx, tiger, elephant or brown bear. WWF Project Officer Fabijan Peronja tells Time Out: 'In today's challenging times, the importance of our impact on nature has probably never been more apparent', continuing, 'Through symbolic adoptions, you help wild animals, our neighbours in this shared home we call planet Earth'.

Giant panda baby over the tree.
© wklzzz

Help a child send Komunalac their drawing of what Earth Day means to them

Komunalac is a specialized company providing services in sustainable waste management, green space maintenance and more. It's inviting all children to mark Earth Day by drawing what the observance means to them. Topics can be anything from environmental issues and recycling to depictions of nature. Photos of artworks can be sent by parents to petra.bijac@komunalac-kc.hr and sonja.markic@komunalac-kc.hr until April 24, with the full name and age of the child stated for credit. On April 26, also Komunalac's birthday, the company will celebrate with a virtual exhibition of all art received and will present a special award to participants.

The world seen by children
© alphaspirit

Take an augmented reality tour through UNESCO Geopark Papuk in Slavonia

Activists, artists, actors and singers have joined forces to create an augmented reality tour of the Slavonia region's stunning UNESCO Geopark Papuk. Papuk is protected not only for its extraordinary biological and geological diversity, but also for its rich cultural heritage and history. Here are the steps that'll take you through the tour: 1) Scan the QR code here, which will take you to AR app Blippar's download page; 2) Download the Blippar app; 3) Scan this poster using the app; 4) Click through and enjoy the tour - photos, illustrations and music included.

Papuk Mountain
© Informativni Centar Virovitica

This feature is part of Time Out Croatia's commitment to support businesses, commerce and non-profit organisations during the period of social distancing.

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