When Denis Hayes coordinated the first Earth Day in 1970, he was unsure of whether the event would last another year – let alone 40 more.
On that spring day in 1970, the National Mall was the epicenter for environmental legislation, as citizens nationwide demanded more intense conservation of the environment.
But on Sunday, the National Mall was once again a rallying group to call upon congress to address climate change.
“In 1970 we were trying to build the biggest event that we could, and it never occurred to us that there might be another Earth Day in 1971,” Hayes said. “In the 1960’s there were many movements that lasted for some time, but didn’t sustain. Earth Day picked up this momentum where people who did it did it in their neighborhoods, cities, and campuses, and just kept on wanting to do it year after year.”
The eight-hour rally featured numerous tents, speakers, and bands. Some of the speakers included movie director James Cameron, NFL player Dhani Jones, Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
“We gotta fight the deniers, and fight the people in doubt,” James Cameron said in his speech. “You need to be warriors, you need to create the change.”
Cameron, a well-known advocate of environmental sustainability, said he plans on planting one million trees in 15 countries over the next year.
Many of the speakers stressed the importance of future generations to address environmental issues.
“People are only gonna listen if the youth rise up,” said Sean Miller, Earth Day Network’s Director of Education. “College students and higher education institutions are the incubators of change. If you look back at the history whether it was the space race, or industrialization, all that knowledge started in college, and was fostered out throughout our society through research.”
Some of the musical performances included Passion Pit, Jimmy Cliff, The Roots, John Legend, Bob Weir, Robert Randolph and Sting, who closed the evening out. Fall Out Boy also made a surprise appearance.