On April 22, 1970 about 20 million Americans joined in the nation’s first Earth Day. They gathered on streets, in parks, and auditoriums. Professors and other experts held discussions called teach-ins at colleges to discuss the effects of pollution. Speakers talked about how oil spills, power plants, sewers, toxic dumps and pesticides were harming people, plants, and animals.
People did not just talk about the environment, they spent the day cleaning parks, creeks, roadways and collecting cans for recycling. Cars were banned on New York City’s Fifth Avenue at noon. Thousands of people walked down the street carrying signs and writing messages on the sidewalk with chalk. Some wore gas masks to show what the future might look like if air pollution continued.
Students at Northern Michigan University flushed green fluorescent dye down their toilets to prove that raw sewage was going directly into Lake Superior. (This problem has since been fixed.)
More people are participating in Earth Day than ever before. In 1970, twenty million people were involved. By 1990, that number had grown to two hundred million people. Efforts spread across the globe. In 2000, more than 180 countries held events for Earth Day.
The U.S. government has also been involved by passing important laws. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act are just a few that have helped protect Michigan and the Great Lakes.
To read more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History and Michigan History for Kids magazines. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit www.michiganhistorymagazine.com.
Article By Christine Schwerin