49 years of environmental victories, in photos

As delegates gather at the UN’s Climate Action Summit, we look at conservation milestones since the first Earth Day in 1970.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, an estimated 20 million people across the United States took to the streets on behalf of the environment. Spurred by the mobilization, within five years Congress created some of the most consequential environmental legislation to date: the creation of Environmental Protection Agency (1970) the Clean Air Act (1970), the Clean Water Act (1972), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), and the Safe Drinking Water Act (1974).

Since that early push, momentum behind environmental conservation has ebbed and flowed, but each year can be marked by environmental wins—both locally and globally.

This week and next, representatives from around the world are gathering at the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York City to present actionable plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

As summit delegates discuss possible solutions, we’ve assembled 49 environmental accomplishments—one for nearly every year since the first Earth Day—to reflect on progress made and land left to cover.