Trees are reflected in a fountain during Westminster College’s annual Earth Day Celebration in Salt Lake City on Monday. More than 30 campus and community groups participated in the event, which included a pop-up thrift store, art highlighting endangered species and electronic-waste recycling. According to earthday.org, the idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized that if he could infuse that energy with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda. Nelson announced the idea for a “national teach-in on the environment” to the national media; persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican congressman, to serve as his co-chairman; and recruited Denis Hayes from Harvard as national coordinator. April 22, falling between spring break and final exams, was selected as the date. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.
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