Earth Day: What is it, when is it and why is it important?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Writer, Formative Content


  • Earth Day is one of the biggest environmental protest movements on the planet.
  • It began in 1970 and takes place every year on 22 April.
  • Around 1 billion people from more than 190 countries join demonstrations, projects and initiatives in efforts to help protect the planet.
  • Without urgent action to curb emissions, the world is on course to reach 3.2°C above pre-industrial levels, the UN says.

“Good evening, a unique day in American history is ending. A day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival.”

Those were the words of US TV presenter Walter Cronkite as he described the aftermath of the first Earth Day back in 1970.

Here’s what you need to know about Earth Day in 2022.

What is Earth Day and why is it held in April?

Earth Day is an international day devoted to our planet. It draws attention to the environment and promotes conservation and sustainability.

Each year on 22 April, around 1 billion individuals across more than 190 countries take action to raise awareness of the climate crisis and bring about behavioural change to protect the environment. In 2020, Earth Day celebrated its 50th anniversary.

What happens on Earth Day?

Participation in Earth Day can take many forms, including small home or classroom projects like planting a herb garden or picking up litter. People also volunteer to plant trees, join other ecological projects or take part in street protests about climate change.

Official Earth Day campaigns and projects aim to increase environmental literacy and bring together like-minded people or groups to address issues such as deforestation, biodiversity loss and other challenges.

How did Earth Day begin?

Millions of people took to the streets of US cities and towns on 22 April 1970 in mass protests over the damage being done to the planet and its resources.

Amid the demonstrations, protesters brought New York City’s usually bustling Fifth Avenue to a halt, while students in Boston held a “die-in” at Logan airport.

The environmental impact of the post-war consumer boom was beginning to be felt at that time. Oil spills, factory pollution, toxic spills and other ecological threats were on the rise, with little if any legislation in place to prevent them.

Planet Earth First Sign.
Earth Day has become a global environmental protest movement.

The protests brought together people from all walks of American life – accounting for about 10% of the US population – to demonstrate and voice their demands for sustainable change. The Earth Day website calls it the birth of the modern environmental movement.

What led to the street protests in 1970?

Concerned about increasing levels of unchecked environmental destruction, Junior Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin suggested a series of “teach-ins” on university campuses across the US in 1969 to raise awareness of environmental threats.

Nelson was joined by Congressman Pete McCloskey and activist Denis Hayes to organize the teach-ins, but the group soon recognized an opportunity to broaden the event’s appeal beyond student populations.

The newly named Earth Day protest events attracted national media attention and support from around 20 million Americans across age and political spectrums, occupations and income groups.

What did the protests achieve?

The Earth Day demonstrations left an indelible mark on US policy. By the end of 1970, the US Environmental Protection Agency came into being and a stream of laws followed to help protect the environment. These included the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act.

Further legislation was soon introduced to protect water quality, endangered species and to control the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides.

When did Earth Day go global?

Earth Day went beyond the US in 1990. Around 200 million people from 141 countries joined efforts to boost recycling around the world that year, paving the way for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Global warming can be beaten thanks to this simple plan

The World Economic Forum’s Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

Mission Possible Platform: Delivering industry pathways t…

This “Earth Summit”, as it became known, led to the formation of the UN Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, along with the Commission on Sustainable Development to monitor and report on the implementation of Earth Summit agreements.

Why is Earth Day important today?

As the millennium loomed, Denis Hayes and the Earth Day movement turned their attention to the growing reality of the impending climate crisis with a clear message for world leaders: urgent action is needed to address global warming.

It’s a message that is just as relevant today. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that without further immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the world is on course for temperatures 3.2°C above pre-industrial levels. This level of warming would be catastrophic for the planet and all life on it, including humans.

Now a truly global movement, Earth Day has become a leading light in the fight to combat climate change, raising awareness of environmental issues and providing a forum for people to get involved. Our survival could depend on it.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: