Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.
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In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations.
A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues.
Earth Day Network launched the Green Cities campaign in the fall of 2013 to help cities around the world become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. Focused on three key elements – buildings, energy, and transportation – the campaign aims to help cities accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform.
Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. As the urban population grows and the effects of climate change worsen, our cities have to evolve.
It’s time for us to invest in efficiency and renewable energy, rebuild our cities and towns, and begin to solve the climate crisis. Over the next two years, with a focus on Earth Day 2014, the Green Cities campaign will mobilize a global movement to accelerate this transition. Join us in calling for a new era of green cities.
Most of the world currently relies on outdated electric generation structures that are extremely inefficient and dirty. To help cities become more sustainable, we need to redesign the current system, transition to renewable energy sources, and implement 21st century solutions.
Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Through simple efficiency and design improvements to buildings we can reduce those emissions drastically. To realize that vision, cities need to update ordinances, switch to performance based building codes, and improve financing options.
Transportation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, three quarters of which comes directly from road vehicles. To reduce these emissions and the resulting smog, we need to improve standards, increase public transportation options, invest in alternative transportation, and improve city walkability and bikeability.
Through an informative website and a series of in-depth toolkits, the campaign will educate the public about each element of green cities and spur individuals to take civic action by signing petitions, sending letters, and organizing events.
In addition, Earth Day Network will work with partners on the ground in strategically placed cities and towns to organize grassroots efforts to improve local codes, ordinances, and policies that will help cities become model green cities.
Spanning Earth Day 2014 and 2015, the campaign will work with an international team of partners, including local organizers, non-profits, businesses, and governments to help increase public awareness, mobilize support for appropriate policies, and generate concrete commitments for innovative and replicable initiatives.