Issued for the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970, this black-and-green button signaled widespread popular concern about the health of the environment. On that day, millions of Americans took to the streets in massive demonstrations across the country, bringing together activists protesting everything from oil spills and pollution-generating factories to freeways and the loss of wilderness. Americans had grown increasingly concerned about environmental issues during the 1960s, especially after Rachel Carson's best-seller, Silent Spring, passionately documented the devastating effects of the pesticide DDT. In 1969 Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, inspired by the tremendous success of the antiwar movement at the height of the Vietnam conflict, called for massive protests to dramatize Americans' support for environmental issues and to alert the nation's politicians to the country's environmental problems. It worked: Congress established the Environmental Protection Agency the same year and passed the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act two years later. Earth Day has since become an annual event that draws millions of participants from every walk of life. In 1995 President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts.
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