The Rich History of Earth Day: Celebrating 50 Years

Earth Day at Bok Tower Gardens has been one of the highlights of our calendar for many years. The Gardens usually hosts thousands of children from across Central Florida for two days of hands-on learning facilitated by some of the area’s most vital environmental agencies and organizations. In 2020, our celebration now takes place as a virtual gathering and we encourage you to learn more about our efforts through this website and social media. Now more than ever, the mission of Earth Day is important to all who inhabit this planet.

Earth Day began in 1970, eight years after Rachel Carson’s best-selling book Silent Spring brought a new awareness to the American public about the plight of our environment. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson had the idea for a day focusing on our planet. He enlisted the help of Congressman Pete McCloskey and Harvard graduate Denis Hayes to coordinate and mobilize the public. They decided on April 22 as the date fell nicely between Spring Break and Final Exams.

Earth Day 1970 saw 20 million Americans participate in coast-to-coast rallies to advocate for a healthy, sustainable environment for all. Groups focused on single environmental issues came together for the first time, and their voices were heard. By the end of the year, the United States had created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water and the Endangered Species Acts followed shortly after.

Earth Day began because people from many different walks of life came together over the shared ideas and values of caring for our planet. Since that time, Earth Day has gone global, becoming the largest secular observance in the world, with a billion participants each year taking action to raise awareness of environmental issues.

At Bok Tower Gardens, our history is intertwined with that of environmental consciousness, beginning with Edward Bok designating the Gardens as a bird sanctuary. For the past seven years, the Gardens has hosted a two-day festival celebrating Earth Day with hands-on activities led by environmental educators for elementary students. This year we are pleased to bring you Earth Day 2020 digitally, with a variety of content to inspire you to take action for a better tomorrow. Go to the official site of Earth Day,, to find the action that speaks to you.

This blog was written by Becky Mallison, member of the Bok Tower Gardens Education team.