News Release:  9-7-00
Gorbachev's Signature Completes Earth Day Proclamation

World Forum in New York

In a meeting with John McConnell, 85 year old founder of Earth Day, President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Proclamation which initiated the worldwide celebration on March 21, 1970.  This event takes place each year at the United Nations New York. 

In the global Earth Day Proclamation, the name of Gorbachev is joined by United Nations Secretary General U Thant,  Anthropologist Margaret Mead, Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Yasir Arafat and Yehudi Menuhin.

This is the highlight of a thirty year effort by Mr. McConnell for a worldview that will promote "peace, justice and the care of Earth. 

See the Earth Day Proclamation:

Carmen Colombo: 514/328-0935
Lee Lawrence: 301/229-1187
John McConnell: 718/366-6963


Earth Day Questions answered by John McConnell

Question 1: You are the one who first came up with the idea and name for Earth Day. Could you tell us what inspired you, and what that first Earth Day (March 20, 1970) in San Francisco was like?

Answer: I have had a sense of mission since my early youth.  The way I thought and the experiences I had all led, step by step, to my vision of Earth Day  a global holiday for the whole planet.

My father, who was an evangelist, made me think about why we are here and where are we going?  It seems to me my whole life has been a search to learn what life is all about.  I sought help from scientists and scholars and read great books to find answers.

In 1939 a chemist and I formed a research laboratory in Los Angeles.  His name was Albert Nobell.  George Pepperdine funded our effort.  Our work there brought me in touch with scientists at Cal Tech and resulted in dialogue with them about Space exploration and the search for peaceful uses of atomic energy.  In 1958 I attended the Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva where my proposal for a visible Star of  Hope Satellite attracted attention and support. 

We ended the 30 day period of mourning for President Kennedy on December 22, 1963 with a global "Minute for Peace."  My proposal for this resulted in global front page publicity and broadcast of the minute I produced and was carried by radio and TV networks.  In 1965 United Nations Secretary-General U Thant provided a global Minute for Peace which was followed by a Minute for Peace series I produced.

It was while working on Minute for Peace that I came up with the idea of Earth Day.  Holidays around the world brought people together for partisan purposes.  Why not a great global holiday in support of our common desire for "peace, justice and the care of Earth"?

San Francisco

In 1969 I persuaded the city of San Francisco, who had supported Minute for Peace, to proclaim March 21, 1970 as Earth Day.  The support that followed included participation by business, schools, churches, the Red Cross, Chamber of Commerce and a proclamation from the Mayor.  Other cities joined in observing the day.  The University of California in Berkeley and at Davis had outstanding participation.  Streets were closed and there was music, speeches and booths with environmental solutions.  In Davis the campus had a Street of Spring, Street of Crafts, Street of Mysteries and there was a 12 hour Vigil of Creation.  In San Francisco at Golden Gate Park they had a Tree Planting Ceremony and their nursery provided plants which the Red Cross station wagons took to schools throughout the area for children to plant.   Earth Day was featured in the papers and on radio and TV.

Question 2: Soon after that,  you moved to the East Coast and started efforts to make Earth Day an International Holiday. Margaret Mead and others worked with you and supported your efforts. Could you describe what the scene was like at that  time, in New York, and all the people  involved with you back then?

Answer: Our big Earth Day in New York was the next year.  The 1971 Earth Day in New York had the backing of United Nations Secretary General U Thant.  He felt Earth Day could become a vital global holiday that would benefit people and planet.  My conversations with Margaret Mead and United Nations Ambassadors in 1970 resulted in participation worldwide.  The International Earth Day Proclamation I had written after San Francisco was signed by U Thant and other world leaders.  Issued as a United Nations Release it helped bring global attention. 

The 1971 Earth Day in New York brought over 50,000 people to Central Park and the Ringing of the United Nations Peace Bell at the moment Spring began obtained global attention.

In 1972 the United Nations celebration of Earth Day included the first 12 hour special on national television.  The centerpiece of this remarkable event was the ringing of the Peace Bell by Secretary General Waldheim and included panels of world experts from around the world discussing the growing environmental crisis and what should be done.  This was interspersed with music which included Pete Seeger and Odeta.

Earth Day observance has continued each year at the United Nations.  It played a key role in conflict resolution and efforts for the care of Earth. 

See Earth Day: Past, Present, Future

Please note: The Earth Day Proclamation with Mikhail Gorbachev's signature will be posted soon. The link above takes you to the most updated version, before today, September 7, 2000.