From Academic Kids
Earth Day is a name used by two different observances held annually in the (northern) spring, both intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the planet's fragile environment.
The Equinoctial Earth Day
The original equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated in most countries on the vernal equinox to mark the precise moment that spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. At this global moment, night and day are equal length anywhere on Earth. At the South Pole, the sun sets, bringing an end to the six-month-long day, while at the North Pole, the sun rises, ending six months of continuous darkness. Anyone standing on the equator at noon will not cast a shadow. Earth Day is a day of equilibrium when differences are forgotten and nature's renewal is celebrated by all.
This annual event marks the beginning of Earth Day which has been traditionally observed with the ringing of bells. Earth Day was created to remind us of our shared responsibility to protect the planet. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year on the vernal equinox (around March 21). On February 26, 1971, UN Secretary-General U Thant signed a proclamation to that effect. At the moment of the equinox, the Peace Bell is rung at the UN headquarters in New York.
John McConnell first introduced the idea of a global holiday called Earth Day at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969, the same year that he designed the Earth flag. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. U Thant supported John McConnell’s global initiative to celebrate this annual spring equinox event. In his statement on March 21, 1971, U Thant said: “May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.” Secretary General Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies in 1972. The United Nations Earth Day ceremony continued each year on the day of the March equinox (20th or 21st), with the ringing of the U.N. Peace Bell at the very moment of the equinox. In 1975 the U.S. Congress and President Ford proclaimed and urged observance of Earth Day on the March equinox.
March 20 and April 22, 2005, will be the 35th Earth Day.
The April 22 Earth Day
In January 1970, the Environmental Teach-In, decided to call their one-off event on 22 April Earth Day. The successes of that day led to it becoming a regular event. Gaylord Nelson, an environmental activist in the U.S. Senate, took a leading role in organizing the celebration, to demonstrate popular political support for an environmental agenda. Senator Nelson staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes (a Harvard student and Stanford graduate) as coordinator of activities.
According to Senator Nelson, Earth Day "worked" because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. Though he felt his committee had neither the time nor resources to organize the 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated, these things did happen. According to the Senator, "It organized itself."
The "holiday" proved extremely popular in the United States. The first Earth Day, in 1970, had participants and celebrants in two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the U.S. Senator Nelson directly credited the first Earth Day with persuading U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a substantial, lasting constituency. In 1971 Senator Gaylord Nelson announced an 'Earth Week' — for the third week of April — as a yearly event.
Many important laws were passed by the Congress in the wake of the 1970 Earth Day, including the Clean Air Act, and the EPA was created in the wake of the event's popularity as well.
The Earth Day leadership fractured over the years, with Hayes and Nelson and other widely-known Earth Day leaders favoring more programmatic and conventional public relations approaches to the observance(s), while grassroots groups have sought to make Earth Day into a day of action which changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.
During Earth Day 2000 actor Leonardo DiCaprio was chosen by Hayes to be the spokesperson of the event, despite the fact that DiCaprio drove a large SUV at the time and was viewed as wanting to rehabilitate his public image in the wake of clever Thai protesters targeting him during the filming of the actor's film The Beach in 1999.
Earth Day is almost universally ignored or dismissed by serious policy people working on environment.
The date chosen for Earth Day is coincident with the historical date of Arbor Day a national tree planding holiday started in the late 1800's. Arbor Day is celebrated on the birthday of it's founder, Julius Sterling Morton. Another reading of the date from Earth Day organizers notes that the 1970 April 22 event took place between college students' Spring Break and final exams, as it was the era of student protest.
Some conservative critics of environmentalism point out the same date of Lenin's birthday. However, Earth Day has also been said to have been chosen on April 22 because it coincides with the birthday of actor Eddie Albert, who was an early contributor to many environmental causes.
The alternative rock group Dramarama released a popular song about Earth Day in 1993 called "What Are We Gonna Do"  (http://www.lyricsbox.com/dramarama-lyrics-what-are-we-gonna-do-kbhgh4b.html). Canadian artist Devin Townsend has composed a song called "Earth Day" which appears on his 2001 album Terria.
- International Earth Day (http://www.earthsite.org/) - The Official Site - Spring/Vernal Equinox
- Earth Day Network (http://www.earthday.net/) - Coordinating worldwide events for Earth Day 2000 and beyond.
- Earth Day Energy Fast (http://www.earthdayenergyfast.org/) - Global grassroots campaign (since 1991) to promote action during Earth Day observances
- Earth Day Information Center (http://www.nationalcenter.org/EarthDay98.html) - Earth Day Fact Sheets
- United States Earth Day (http://www.earthday.gov/) - The US Official Site for Earth Day
- Earth Day Canada (http://www.earthday.ca/) - The Canadian Official Site for Earth Day
- Earth Day in Your Neighborhood (http://www.allspecies.org/neigh/block.htm) - How to do an Earth Day on your block this Spring
- Earth Day activity and e-cards (http://nature.org/earthday/) from The Nature Conservancy (http://nature.org/)
- KidCast for Peace (http://creativity.net/KidCast/) - Solutions for a Better World, an Earth Day Edutainment
- Kids Domain Earth Day Online Games (http://www.kidsdomain.com/games/earthday.html)
- Earth Day Groceries Project (http://www.earthdaybags.org/) - Describes environmental awareness project in which students decorate paper grocery bags with environmental messages for Earth Day.
- The Tale of the Two Earth Days (http://www.solcomhouse.com/earthday.htm)
- Arbor day (http://http://www.arborday.org/arborday/history.cfm)