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History of Earth Day

The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, was the brain-child of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and activist Denis Hayes. They were inspired to take action by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. With strong backing from Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers, celebrations and teach-ins took place in 2,000 U.S. colleges and universities, and roughly 10,000 primary and secondary schools. In addition, hundreds of communities throughout the country participated, bringing the total number of participants to 20 million, or about 10% of the U.S. population at the time. With this event as a catalyst, by the end of 1970 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created, and new environmental laws were passed, including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (which formed OSHA), and the Clean Air Act, followed two years later by the Clean Water Act, and after that the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. In 1990 Earth Day became a world-wide event, and it is now observed in 192 countries. Denis Hayes claims it is, “the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year.”

To learn more about Earth Day see Wikipedia, the Earth Day website, and the entry for Earth Day from the Encyclopedia of Environment and Society through the Credo Reference database.

Print Books

American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau (LOA #182)

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2020

The Civilian Conservation Corps in Wisconsin

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

The Essential Aldo Leopold

Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism

Handbook of Citizen Science in Ecology and Conservation

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

How to Give up Plastic

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Nature's Best Hope

The Overstory

The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics

We live during a crucial period of human history on Earth. Anthropogenic environmental changes are occurring on global scales at unprecedented rates. Despite a long history of environmental intervention, never before has the collective impact of human behaviors threatened all of the major bio-systems on the planet.

A Passion for Nature

Silent Spring

First published in 1962, this book alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides. The outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.

Under a White Sky

The Age of Sustainability

The Conservation Constitution

Financing Sustainable Development

Historical Dictionary of the Green Movement

An Inconvenient Truth

Losing Earth

On Fire

A Sand County Almanac

The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change

The Secret Wisdom of Nature

Sustainability Transformations

Wading Right In

The Water-Food-Energy Nexus

We Are the Weather


Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability

Beyond Earth Day

DDT, Silent Spring, and the Rise of Environmentalism

Energy for Sustainability

Environmental Encyclopedia

The Environmental Moment, 1968-1972

Environmentalism Unbound

For the Wild

The Gentle Subversive

Learning to Listen to the Land

The Man from Clear Lake

Nature's Allies

The New Economy of Nature

Red Sky at Morning

Seventh Generation Earth Ethics

Contact Me

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Jodi Hilleshiem
Todd Wehr Memorial Library
MC 114
La Crosse, WI 54601

Children's Books

Buried Sunlight

Conserving the Environment

Earth Day

Earth Mother

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines


Greta's Story

The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge

Me ... Jane

Nature's Patchwork Quilt

Outside In

Putting Earth First



Reducing Your Carbon Footprint at Home

Things Natural, Wild, and Free

Tracking Trash

Wangari's Trees of Peace