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Earth Day: A Brief History

Highlights from the history of Earth Day, and some legislative victories it helped enable. For a more complete list, visit the Environmental...


Highlights from the history of Earth Day, and some legislative victories it helped enable. For a more complete list, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website.1969: Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin calls for an environmental teach-in one year hence, inspired by similarly-styled Vietnam War protests, and the growing global concern about overpopulation and the depletion of resources.1970: On April 22, more than 20 million people celebrate the first Earth Day in the United States. This same year, the Environmental Protection Agency is established, the Clean Air Act is signed into law, and the National Resources Defense Council is founded. The modern environmental movement is officially underway.1971: Greenpeace is founded.1972: Congress passes the Clean Water Act.1973: Endangered Species Act1975: Congress establishes fuel economy and emissions standards for cars.1980: 10th anniversary of Earth Day. Congress enacts environmental policy that requires polluters to clean up hazardous waste sites.1987: The United States adopts the Montreal Protocol with the goal of eliminating CFC production.1990: With recycling as the focus, 140 countries celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Day.1991: Federal agencies start using products with recycled content.1992: EPA initiates Energy Star program, as a way of information consumers about energy-efficient products.1995: Bill Clinton awards the now retired Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his environmental work. Clinton notes: "As the father of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event."2000: The 30th anniversary of Earth Day is recognized by 184 countries, and the focus is on clean energy.2009: Several billion people are expected to participate in Earth Day celebrations around the globe.
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