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Earth Day 2000 a millennial celebration

denis hayes
Earth Day CEO Denis Hayes was an original Earth Day coordinator.   

June 29, 1999
Web posted at: 12:42 p.m. EDT (1642 GMT)


What event inspired millions of people to celebrate, convinced hundreds in the U.S Congress to vote in favor of nature and helped numerous environmental programs to succeed?

Earth Day '99, of course, and events already scheduled for Earth Day 2000 are sure to blow the roof off the last Earth Day of the millennium.

Here's a sample of who was active in Earth Day '99 events across the country:

  • Ten thousand people attended various Earth Day activities in Rhode Island; Austin, Texas and Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Thirty-five thousand Contra Costa County, Calif., citizens celebrated Earth Day '99 with music, environmental films, restoration and clean-up projects and Eco-friendly food.
  • The California Bay area hosted events that saw 35,000 activists and
  • Earth Day San Diego inspired 60,000 people to celebrate nature.
In addition to Earth Day '99 events and festivities, elected leaders were also inspired to act. The Arctic Wilderness Protection Bill was introduced in Congress on Earth Day 1999 as well as tougher National Park clean air requirements. Under the U.S. Clean Air Act states will reduce air pollution in 37 national parks and 119 federal wilderness areas.

The Beaches Environmental Assessment, Cleanup and Health Act (HR 999 the Beach Bill) was also approved unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives on April 22. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and Earth Day Network Chair Denis Hayes dedicated the first solar panels on the Department of Energy building in Washington, D.C., on this day.

The Earth Day Network, a worldwide alliance that coordinates Earth Day events in the U.S. and around the world, participated in more than 100 major Earth Day '99 events. Network speakers attended events at 15 key locations around the country including Boston; New York City; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Seattle; Miami; Atlanta and Sacramento, Calif.

The Earth Day Network is now busy gearing up for Earth Day 2000. Many of the original Earth Day coordinators, including Gaylord Nelson and Hayes, are joining forces to create a millennial celebration.

For Earth Day 2000, the Earth Day Network will address the most sweeping environmental problems and opportunities facing the Earth and it will promote a policy agenda to begin addressing them seriously. Network organizers have vowed to make Earth Day 2000 the largest organized event in history and to use the campaign surrounding the event to build a strong, electronically linked, worldwide environmental alliance.

In the U.S., the Earth Day Network is promoting the theme New Energy for a New Era for 2000 and has planned huge Earth Day 2000 events in New York City and Washington, D.C. These Earth fairs will be powered with clean, renewable energy sources and feature exhibits, demonstrations and activities for the whole family.

"We shouldn't fuel the future with the polluting methods of the past," said Hayes, national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. "We have the technology to power our future in ways that don't threaten our health or poison our planet. Let's choose to use it."

Earth Day began in 1969 after Gaylord Nelson, then a United States senator, proposed a nationwide environmental teach-in. Nelson called for environmental programs to be held on American college campuses the following spring. The idea spread quickly across the country, especially among the younger generation.

Campaign headquarters were set up in a small office space in Washington, D.C. Senator Nelson chaired its board of directors and Hayes, a recent Stanford University graduate, was hired as national coordinator. At its peak, the headquarters had a staff of 60 as well as several hundred volunteers.

An estimated 20 million people took part in the first Earth Day in 1970. Events were held in virtually every city and town in America. Congress adjourned for the day to return home to learn about this new concern for the environment and in New York City, Fifth Avenue was closed to automobiles and more than 100,000 people attended an ecology fair in Central Park. All three major television networks broadcast Earth Day events and the Public Broadcast System devoted its entire daytime programming to Earth Day coverage.

The Environmental Protection Agency was established later in 1970 and the tough Clean Air Act was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of Congress. Within the next three years, landmark legislation such as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act were passed.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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