Students from Pathfinder Bilingual Primary School in Cameroon display the Earth Day Network Education Toolkit (69837)

Apr. 22 (GIN) – Actions to save the forests, the rivers, wildlife and endangered species were underway this week from Pittsboro, North Carolina to Nairobi, Kenya as millions of people marked the 44th anniversary of Earth Day.

The first Earth Day was organized by Gaylord Nelson, a former U.S. senator from Wisconsin, in 1970 as a way to bring environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

“We had reports on over 10,000 high schools doing something,” said Senator Nelson, “and I personally heard from more than 2,500 colleges and from some 2,000 communities. It was a great educational effort, and it should be continued.”

That show of public support is credited with helping push Republican President Richard Nixon and Congress to pass the law that created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December 1970.

This year’s theme is Green Cities. Focused on three key elements — buildings, energy, and transportation — the campaign aims to help cities accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier, and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform.

Campaigns will be geared towards recycling, planting and other activities intended for the planet’s safety and protection. There are also campaigns for increased awareness regarding recycling and energy-efficient communities.

According to the website, events will take place in the U.S., Ghana, Tunisia, Kenya, the Middle East and in most parts of the world.

In Ghana, the 4-H Million Tree Project is conducting a number of tree planting events at schools in celebration of Earth Day. A mango tree planting project will help raise incomes among community members.

Ugandans marks Earth Day this year promoting a smokeless oven program. These ovens, built of mud and straw, replace the traditional cooking method using firewood and three stones, making the cooking process inside safe and smoke free and permitting the saving of over 60 percent of firewood.

In the U.S., a new movie, released this week, (Fierce Green Fire) celebrates the power of ordinary people, from Niagara, N.Y., suburban mom and neighborhood crusader Lois Gibbs’ campaign against toxic waste at Love Canal to Brazilian rubber tapper Chico Mendes’ campaign to save the Amazon rainforest — a campaign that cost him his life.

Meanwhile, DNLee, who calls herself a Black Science blogger, said she was cheered by the fact that “environment” is now accepted as a “Black issue.” Writing on The Urban Scientist, she observed: “The environment is at the very heart of all of the high priority Black Community Issues.

“If Dr. King were alive,” civil rights activist Van Jones told theGrio, an online publication, “he would say we want equal protection from environmental harms like pollution, poison, toxins in the water, and bad food products… He would also say we want equal opportunity to the environmental benefits of organic food, solar panels, and clean energy, air, and water.”