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April 22 is Earth Day and its purpose is to bring awareness to environmental issues and to encourage people around the world to conserve and be stewards of the environment. The concept of Earth Day began forming in the 1960's and through the efforts of it founder Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin it became official in 1970.

The first Earth Day started with more than 20 million people, including students from right here in Cleveland marching from Cleveland State University to the Cuyahoga River to protest pollution. Today it is estimated that more than 1 billion people from around the world participate in Earth Day activities.

Since Earth Day started, many laws have been passed to protect the environment in the United States and around the world. For the United States in particular, the Endangered Species Act was passed, along with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Air. The Clean Water Act has a direct connection to Cleveland.

On a Sunday morning in June of 1969 an oil slick on the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire near the Republic Steel Mill. This was not the first time the river caught fire. It had happened several times in the past due in part to the heavily polluted nature of the river. One month after the fire in 1969, a picture appear on the cover of time magazine showing a fire on the river. This made Cleveland a symbol of environmental degradation. Cleveland's mayor at the time, Carl Stokes, eventually testified before Congress, asking for greater federal involvement in pollution control. This action and along with the assistance of U.S. representative Louis Stokes, played a part in the passage of the federal Clean Water Act of 1972.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides many tips for being more environmental friendly. One tips is to change five light bulbs, replacing your most frequently used lights with energy start qualified products, allowing for a reduced carbon foot print. Other tips include recycling, driving more efficiently, choosing more environmentally friendly products and making your homes more energy efficient.

For information on the Cuyahoga River fire, follow the link: http://on.wkyc.com/1rgArHC

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