Earth Day 2010 is 40th anniversary of the April 22 event started by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970. Nelson began the tradition, founded to increase environmental awareness and promote federal legislation to resolve ecological crises after visiting a college "teach in." Nelson visited a Santa Barbara, California campus in August of 1969 where he first handedly experienced the power of a "teach in" as a way of educating students on the hot topic of the Vietnam War.
Nelson borrowed the idea of a "teach in" to shift focus onto environmental awareness which grew into a 20 million person campaign on the first Earth Day held April 22, 1970. Demonstrators across the United States rallied to draw attention to the issues of air and water pollution and successfully gained enough momentum for federal legislators to address the ever growing problem of protecting the environment. Nelson's "grassroots" environmentally focused efforts earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom given by President Bill Clinton in 1995. This award is the nation's highest civilian honor. The achievement celebrates Nelson's contributions to the establishment of: Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 2, 1970, the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Air Act of 1990, the Occupational Safety and Health Act on Dec. 29, 1970, workplace safety guidelines for the fields of General industry, Maritime, Construction, and Agriculture in 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, The Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1976, The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and 1984.