Earth Day was created in 1970 in hopes of bringing about environmental reform in America. It was started by Sen. Gaylord Nelson, from Wisconsin, after he learned about a terrible oil spill off the coast of California in 1969. He worked with Pete McCloskey, a Congressman, and Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the first Earth Day.
Just a few short years after the first Earth Day, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created and Congress passed a number of laws to help protect humans and animals, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Fifty years have passed since the first Earth Day. Coincidentally, one of the positives of billions of people staying at home to slow the spread of COVID-19 has been a clear reduction of the environmental impact people are having on the planet—what a nice birthday present for Earth Day’s 50th!
Satellites have observed major decreases in nitrogen dioxide, an air pollutant that comes from the emissions of cars, trucks, buses, and traditional power plants. Air pollution, including nitrogen dioxide, can have serious health consequences on humans and has been linked to climate change.
Animals have also been enjoying how humans have been sticking closer to home. In Yosemite National Park, photographers have snapped photos of deer, coyotes and other animals roaming the park in areas the fearful animals would normally avoid because of crowds of tourists. Beaches from Thailand to Florida have also reported having more leatherback sea turtle nests than average.
The famed canals of Venice, Italy, have also been brilliantly clear and people have even seen jellyfish swimming in the canals! Though it’s unclear if there is less pollution in the water, the lack of boats and gondolas in the water has allowed the sediment to settle and allowed for some beautiful pictures.