As confusing as it is, there are actually two Earth Days. Both Earth Days were launched in the spring of 1970 and share their 40th anniversary in 2010.
One Earth Day is celebrated every year at the moment of the Spring Equinox on or around March 21st when night and day are exactly the same length of time.
The other, more commonly known Earth Day, especially in the United States, is celebrated on April 22nd and is organized by the Earth Day Network.
Twenty million people participated in Earth Day activities on April 22nd, 1970, and the event is considered to have been the birth of the environmental movement.
1. Spring Equinox Earth Day
The choice of choosing the Spring Equinox as the time for a celebration of the environment was made by John McConnell in the City of San Francisco on March 21, 1970.
A long-time conservationist and designer of the Earth Flag, McConnell chose the symbolism of the equinox to represent a time of equilibrium and balance, "a day for the people of Earth" to stop and consider how they could work together for peace, justice, and the care of the Earth.
McConnell felt that the Spring Equinox was a meaningful day for people all around the world. A man well ahead of his time, McConnell became a conservationist in 1939 while working in a plastics factory and observing the environmental harm it caused.
McConnell founded the Earth Society Foundation in the 1970s, which to this day organizes the Spring Equinox Earth Day event and coordinates the Peace Bell Ceremony at the UN.
The mission of the foundation is to encourage all people to become active participants in the preservation of the Earth’s natural resources, and more.
Ever since the UN signed the Earth Day Proclamation written by McConnell in June, 1970, the Earth Society Foundation's Earth Day is centered around the ringing of the UN Peace Bell at UN Headquarters in New York. March 20, 2010 at 1:32 EDT will mark the 40th annual Peace Bell Ceremony on the Spring Equinox at the United Nations.
2. April 22nd Earth Day
April 22nd is most commonly known as Earth Day in the United States.
Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed the day of environmental day of protest in 1970.
Later, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role as founder.
Nelson chose a Harvard student, Denis Hayes, to work with other volunteers, to coordinate a national effort. The initiative was successful, with twenty million people taking to the streets and thousands of colleges and universities joining the protest.
The Earth Day Network was founded by the organizers of the 1970 Earth Day event.
Twenty years later, leading up to Earth Day 1990, Denis Hayes was asked to organize another Earth day, and the global effort inspired 200 million people in 141 countries to join the protest.
Ten years after that, for the millennium Earth Day, Denis Hayes organized another global protest, this time focusing on global warming and the need for clean energy.
With the help of the Internet, 5,000 environmental groups joined the activities in 184 countries.
Earth Day Network reports that activities varied, from a talking drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, to thousands of people gathering on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.
In 2010, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the Earth Day Network claims that more than 1 billion people will participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest secular civic event in the world.
Calling the day “Earth Day 40,” the Earth Day Network believes that the massive protest will be seen as a turning point for the benefit of the planet by future generations.
For more about both Earth Days in 2010, visit our Earth Day 2010 page.