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Earth Day is a day that millions of people across 193 countries partake in, but how did this all begin?

What some may not know is that Wisconsin had an influential role in the development of Earth Day. Here’s how things unfolded decades ago.

Wisconsin State Senator Gaylord Nelson created Earth Day in 1970. He was inspired by the student anti-war movement after he saw the devastation of the 1969 major oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA. Nelson, along with conservation-minded Republican Congressman Pete McCloskey, announced an idea for a “national teach-in on the environment.” By the end of 1970, Earth Day led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, according to Earth Day Network.

With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day coming in 2020, I wondered what Senator Nelson would say about where we are on environmental issues today?

In the NBC News MACH interview with Tia Nelson, Senator Nelson’s daughter Tia Nelson said he would be deeply distressed by the gradual destruction of bipartisan support for environmental protection. On the first Earth Day, Congress adjourned so every member of Congress could go home to their district and participate in an Earth Day event. Her hope in this time of partisan conflict is the continuation of youth-led movements around the world.

“The younger generation gets it. They’re demanding leadership and they’re engaged and informed and inspiring in a way I’ve never seen in my lifetime,” she told NBC News.

While environmental issues have changed drastically since the 1970s when there were no environmental protections. There is still a lot more work to do. Tia finding hope and strength in our younger generations empowers me to continue fighting for environmental protections. I hope this touches your soul as it does mine on this 49th celebration of Earth Day.

Local Earth Day Events

With that being said, after planting trees in Colonial Park on Saturday, April 27th, I encourage you to participate in Racine’s Trash Tag event as part of YP week.

Grab your family and friends and explore a neighborhood or a new spot in town and join in the worldwide movement of #TrashTag! Take a photo of an area that needs some cleaning or maintenance. Then, grab some gloves and garbage bags and put in some tender loving care to clean up the area. Take another picture when you’re all done and post the before and after photos with #RacineTrashTag.

If you would like to join a clean-up with Revitalization WAVE Team, meet them at The Branch at 1501, 1501 Washington Ave, at 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. for the 2nd Annual Uptown Community Clean Up.

About the author

Knoff after sampling the Root River with UW-Parkside for a WI DNR Permit, September 20, 2018

A Racine native, Katie Knoff has a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies from UW-Parkside. There she focused her studies on environmental problems in the past, present, and future, specifically water and geographic mapping. She chose environmental studies because from a young age she loved the outdoors as it always gave me a sense of peace.

If you have any questions or story suggestions, email her at