Earth Day – The Story

During the 1960s environmental concerns: smog, pollution, pesticides, and oils spills had grown to such a level that the public began to look for ways to bring more attention to the problems while searching for solutions.

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, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations.

Inspired by environmental concerns and supported by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, a month later, on April 22, an estimated 20 million Americans gathered for rallies, teach-ins, speeches, and publicity gimmicks. This was considered by many to be the beginning of the Environmental movement. Nelson later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work.

It has since been recognized as the beginning of the environmental movement.  To countless participants, that first Earth Day was a turning point in their lives which they remember to this day with awe and reverence.

In 1990, still focused on solutions to preserve and protect the environment, Denis Hayes, the national coordinator of Earth Day in 1970, relaunched Earth Day as an  international day; 141 nations took part.

Locally, members of the grass roots community, working under the umbrella of the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO), created the first Earth Day in San Luis Obispo County. The coordinating group, the Earth Day Coalition. was founded. It went on to coordinate an Earth Day Fair for ten years.

Realizing that Earth Day takes a considerable amount of time, energy, and its own fund-raising and outreach, in 1999 the group applied for nonprofit status under the name of the Earth Day Alliance, Inc. Its most important mission is to coordinate an annual Earth Day event in SLO and to create alliances between the environmental movement and the community.

The Earth Day Alliance, Inc. welcomes board members and volunteers each year. To learn more and have your questions answered call (805) 544-8529 or send an email to