WASHINGTON, April 22, 2017–A factory could legally spew black clouds of toxic into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream before 1970.
And no one could be taken to court to stop it.
That was possible because there was no Environmental Protection Agency, no Clean Air Act and no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect the Earth’s environment.
In April 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin created Earth Day as a way to force this issue onto the national agenda.
More than 20 million Americans participated, including 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 high schools and grade schools and several thousand communities, according to Nelson in a 1980 EPA journal article.
“It was on that day that Americans made it clear that they understood and were deeply concerned over the deterioration of our environment and the mindless dissipation of our resources,” he said.
Nelson’s grassroots movement resulted in Congress authorizing the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.
Since then, Congress has passed numerous environmental protection laws, including the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973 and banned the pesticide DDT in 1972.
Earth Day is recognized in more than 140 countries to celebrate the Earth’s environment and raise awareness about pollution since going global in 1990.
According to Earth Day Network, an organization focused on the environment, Earth Day is “the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”
From EPA news release