How Earth Day grew to empower 1 billion people worldwide to preserve our planet's health

Every April 22, those passionate about restoring and preserving the planet's health commemorate Earth Day, which was first recognized in 1970.

By late 1969, the United States had borne both the fruits and negative impacts of the industrial development and the Industrial Revolution, said Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers.

"We began to see a giant wave of environmental damage [that] accelerated in the 1960s," Rogers said. Adverse changes to the U.S. landscape became glaringly apparent approximately 70 years after the Industrial Revolution's beginnings in the late 1800s, according to Rogers.

"Those changes included rivers literally catching on fire because boats would discharge oil and gas into the harbors and industrial facilities built along harbors and waterways were processing fuel," she said.

Person holding a mini globe - Pexels image

River fires were not uncommon throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The industrial waste-polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, reportedly ignited at least 13 times, and rivers in cities including Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit had also burst into flames, according to the Washington Post.

"Around the late 1960s, chemical plants were dumping into our waters," said Rogers. "We began to see enormous numbers of birth defects, as well as a decline in our species, including the bald eagle, which was reduced to very small numbers."

The situation had gotten out of hand, Rogers said, and drastic improvements were needed.

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