It’s that time of year again to pay homage to our planetary home. Every April 22 is Earth Day, an international acknowledgment of the beauty and biodiversity of our planet. It’s also a reminder of the importance of conservation and protection of its natural resources in the face of changing climates and unsustainable human-caused environmental activity. Mother Earth provides a home for and nurtures all types of life, and this one day each year gives communities all around the world that chance to come together to honor her with a whole host of Earth Day celebrations and traditions.
Whether you’re helping clean up pollution along a littered highway, petitioning your government, attending a march or just enjoying all of the beauty the planet has to offer by spending time in some of the world’s most untouched and pristine places, there’s no wrong way to celebrate Earth Day, no matter where you are. Read on to find out more about the holiday’s history and Earth Day celebrations and traditions in places around the planet.
The History Of Earth Day Celebrations
Earth Day was first celebrated in the United States in April 1970. It was the brainchild and creation of Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work. Millions of students and activists organized rallies, teach-ins and gatherings on university campuses and in major cities across the country like New York and Washington, D.C., to spread the message about environmental sustainability and protection.
The 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990 saw a worldwide wave of grassroots activism with a focus on bolstering global recycling efforts and updating and reforming United Nations environmental policy. In the almost three decades that have passed since, the celebration has grown into an international phenomenon. With the foundation of the nonprofit Earth Day Network that helps sponsor events around the globe, there are now almost 200 countries worldwide that host festivals, events and celebrations each year. It is estimated to be observed in one way or another by more than 1 billion people around the globe.
Earth Day Celebrations Around The World
The main theme uniting Earth Day celebrations and traditions in different cities and countries is that the Earth is worth protecting and cherishing. These ideas can take the form of political or civic action, like marches and protests, or they can manifest in parties, parades and festivals centered on ecologically responsible practices and behaviors.
In Japan — which Yale’s Environmental Performance Index ranks as the most eco-friendly Asian country — more than 100,000 people come to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo each year for a two-day festival. Here, environmentally friendly and ecologically sustainable businesses set up shop to promote their products. People gather to eat delicious sustainable food (with many vegetarian options), appreciate art, buy handmade goods and listen to live music.
Over in mainland Asia, Thailand uses elements of eastern philosophy and religion interwoven with the themes of conservation and environmental protection. Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks come together at Wat Phra Dhammakaya Temple in the Pathum Thani province north of Bangkok each year to receive alms and to meditate. Their yearly gathering centers on the idea that world harmony follows inner peace and reflection.
In Europe, the Romans know how to go all out, throwing a free annual concert they call Concerto per la Terra (“Concert for the Earth”). It’s the capstone to the several-day festival of activities that take place in the city’s annually constructed Villaggio per la Terra in the Villa Borghese. There’s also an emphasis on youth education, with workshops for children and teens to learn about sustainability, earth sciences and working together.
Across the Atlantic, the Canadians in Vancouver celebrate Earth Day each year with a festival and parade. And of course, the United States, where the international holiday began, has its fair share of Earth Day celebrations across the country. In 2017, scientists and activists gathered for the March for Science, which was centered in Washington, D.C. and had hundreds of satellite marches around the world in countries including Iceland and Uganda, and even Antarctica. Many American schools have special Earth Day-themed programming, like getting students outside to plant trees and gardens or clean up their local outdoor spaces. And though it’s not Earth Day–specific, there’s even a trending social media phenomenon called the #Trashtag challenge, which was started in 2015 by a Seattle-based lighting company called UCO and has become an eco-focused Instagram sensation in the past few months, spreading like wildfire across the world.
Even if you haven’t celebrated Earth Day before, take some time this year to clean up some pollution, join a march or plant a tree — because it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf.