On today’s date in 1970, the first Earth Day is celebrated in the United States and elsewhere. Now an annual event observed every April 22 worldwide, at its 50th Anniversary, various events will again be held to demonstrate support for environmental protection in 193 countries.
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. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by US Sen. Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work.
While Earth Day was initially focused on the US, 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. On Earth Day 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries.This signing fully ratified a key requirement for the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Turning to the animal kingdom, species are becoming extinct at a rate 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate; as many as 30 to 50 percent of the planet’s species may be extinct by 2050, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. As for plants, as of September 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 116 extinct species and 132 possibly extinct species. Based on the best available estimates, scientists say that 21 percent of all plant species, or one in every five plant species, is likely threatened with extinction.
Notwithstanding that miles of polar ice are disintegrating into the seas per year and NASA’s assessment that the West Antarctic ice shelf may collapse in 2020, President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accords 14 months after they were signed.