Today, around the world, people are celebrating Earth Day. Over one billion people, in 192 countries, are taking action in their communities to help reduce our carbon footprint.

Gaylord Nelson, a Senator from Wisconsin in 1970, took notice of an anti war movement by a group of students, who at the time were trying to set the stage for more peaceful resolutions to the war in Vietnam. This gave Senator Nelson an idea- promote a day of “national teach-in on environmental issues”.  Nelson wanted to educate more people on the affects of air and water pollution by putting together events across the nation. What transpired was nothing short of 20 million Americans taking to the streets, parks and auditoriums, on April 22nd, to demonstrate for a more sustainable environment. Rallies gathered coast to coast, showing the depth of people’s care for their world around them. This first Earth Day led the later creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of several Clean Environment Acts.

Since its inception, Earth Day- and by extension Earth Week, has grown into a global tradition, where people worldwide have moved from fringe issues teetering on the edges, to the mainstream.  The popularity and strength of Earth Day has united a world to work together, allowing Earth Day to be seen on a more permanent scale. Organizations align with over a hundred thousand schools around the world, to integrate longer term projects that will educate students and engage them in future sustainability of our Earth. Companies are building “green” in an effort to reduce industrial carbon footprints, which has led to many projects like that of the Living Design Challenge. While in government, legislation has been passed for more wind and solar energy projects and tax credit incentives for “green designs”.

How to get involved?
Communities around the world are holding events today and all week this week. For example in Milan, Italy, thousands of people are gathering for the Earth Day Italia Festival to learn about environmental issues and spur action on local green initiatives, and in Santa Barbara, California, people attended the local Earth Day Festival, which included live music, speakers, a Green Car Show, and special awards given to Van Jones and Bill Nye. From planting trees and cleaning up beaches, to power plants and industries “powering down” for an hour; there are many ways to contribute.

If you’d like to get involved in events around your community, you can visit: http://www.earthday.org/2013/ to learn more. For events in the Western New York region visit: http://www.wnyearthday.org/.