In 1952, Ohio’s Cuyahoga River caught fire and caused $1.5 million in damage to the city of Cleveland; but the story received little national attention. The industrial revolution taking place in the city finally claimed its first victim: the river. The oil and debris clogging the waterway had caught fire eight times before 1952 and only the city residents were aware of that. In 1968, the river ignited yet again and finally, the situation caught national attention.
Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson, at the time U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, took the Cuyahoga River incident (an oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA in 1969) and mass student anti-war movements and propelled the issue of air and water pollution into the public eye, thus forcing environmental protection into the national political agenda. On the 22nd of April 1970, millions of Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for healthy, sustainable environments in what was a massive coast-to-coast rally. Thus, Earth Day was born.