(NEWSnet/AP) – Earth Day is marked every year on April 22 with a flurry of educational activities about the environment and conservation. 

Earth Day began amid growing concern over pollution in the 1960s, when author Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring,” about the pesticide DDT and its effects on the food chain, hit bestseller lists and raised awareness about nature’s delicate balance.

A senator from Wisconsin, Democrat Gaylord Nelson, then had the idea that would become Earth Day. Nelson had long been concerned about the environment when a massive offshore oil spill sent millions of gallons onto the southern California coast in 1969. Nelson toured the spill site, and then had the idea of doing a national “teach-in” on the environment, similar to teach-ins to oppose the war in Vietnam that were taking place at the time on some college campuses.

Nelson and others, including activist Denis Hayes, worked to expand the idea beyond college campuses, with events around the country, and came up with the Earth Day name.

A history of the movement by EarthDay.org, where Hayes remains board chair emeritus, says the date of the first Earth Day — April 22, 1970 — was chosen because it fell on a weekday between spring break and final exams, and the goal was to attract as many students as possible.

This year’s Earth Day is focusing on the threat that plastics pose to the environment, with a call to end single-use plastic and find alternatives to such products.

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