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Facts about Earth Day

Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 1:54 p.m. CDT

• Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

• The annual event is celebrated on April 22 in more than 192 countries each year.

• 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 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 U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin 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.

• More than one billion people are estimated to participate in Earth Day events every year. Environmental groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

• Earth Day activities have given a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

• The Ecology Flag has become an official symbol of Earth Day and is patterned after the American flag, using alternating green and white strips, with a yellow theta to symbolize peace.

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