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Almanac: The first Earth Day

Almanac: The first Earth Day
Almanac: The first Earth Day 01:54

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: April 22nd, 1970, 48 years ago today ... the very first "Earth Day."

As CBS News' Walter Cronkite described it, on a special broadcast called "Earth Day: A Question of Survival," that was "a unique day in American history … a day set aside for a nationwide outpouring of mankind seeking its own survival."

An anti-pollution activist participates in the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. CBS News

That first Earth Day was a nationwide series of events championing the cause of the environment, from the streets of New York City (where Fifth Avenue was turned into a crowded pedestrian mall) to a sixth grade science class in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Uncounted millions took part that first Earth Day ... the first, but hardly the last.

Twenty years later, "Sunday Morning"'s own Charles Kuralt reported on Earth Day 1990. "In all the frozen cosmos we know of no other place like this."

Kuralt referred to the planting of 59,000 trees as "an apology to the Earth."

Which brings us to today. This 48th Earth Day focuses on ending plastic pollution, including the estimated 480 billion or more plastic bottles sold worldwide every year.

Nearly half a century later, the Earth still needs not just our apology, but our help.

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Story produced by Justin Hayter.

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