State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Quiz: Earth Day and Environmentalism

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, the Earth Institute has a variety of great events and stories lined up for you throughout the entire month of April. Find out more about our Earth Month Activities and Earth Day coverage.

Earth Day 2021: Restore Our Earth

Take a break and test your knowledge of Earth Day, environmentalism, and all things natural. Even a genius can learn a thing or two from mother nature – just take it from Albert Einstein: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” And be sure to share your favorite trivia, quotes, or Earth Day thoughts in the comments section below.

Which environmental disaster was a catalyst for the first Earth Day?

Oiled Western Grebe being collected from Santa Barbara Harbor, 1969. Get Oil Out (GOO) Collection, UC Santa Barbara Library.
Oiled western grebe being collected from Santa Barbara Harbor, 1969. Photo: Get Oil Out Collection, UC Santa Barbara Library.

Resulting in an 800-square-mile oil slick off the coast of California, the Santa Barbara oil spill in early 1969 was the largest oil spill in United States waters up to that time. Public opinion was galvanized to take action on environmental issues after seeing images of polluted beaches and oil-covered marine life.

What landmark environmental regulation was passed less than three calendar years after the first Earth Day?

The Endangered Species Act was instrumental in helping the Bald Eagle, America's national symbol, recover from the threat of extinction. Andy Morffew from Itchen Abbas, Hampshire, UK
The Endangered Species Act was instrumental in helping the bald eagle, America’s national symbol, recover from the threat of extinction. Photo: Andy Morffew

The environmental movement gathered steam during the early 1970s, resulting in a wave of groundbreaking legislation. In addition to the above, the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act of 1972; the Occupational Safety and Health Act; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act were also passed during this time.

More than _________ people are mobilized to celebrate Earth Day every year.

First held in 1970, Earth Day is today recognized as the largest secular observance in the world.

Which of the following is true?

A photograph of the loblolly pine Moon Tree and plaque in front of the Sebastian County, Arkansas, courthouse. Jesse Berry / Wikipedia
A photograph of the loblolly pine moon tree and plaque in front of the Sebastian County, Arkansas, courthouse. Photo: Jesse Berry / Wikipedia

Sure, Vladimir Lenin’s birthday is also April 22, but trying to associate environmentalism with a Communist plot seems wackier than a moon tree. Actually, make that way wackier than a moon tree

What watershed literary work published in 1962 jumpstarted the environmental movement and helped inspire the first Earth Day?

Cover of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Wikipedia
Cover of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Photo: Wikipedia

While all of the titles above are trailblazing works in environmentalism, only Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in 1962. Silent Spring brought to light the devastation humankind was perpetrating on the natural world, and explained how toxic pesticides like DDT harmed not just the environment, but human health as well.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

What was the first U.S. National Park?

West Thumb Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park. Tzu Yu Chiang / Wikipedia
West Thumb Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Tzu Yu Chiang / Wikipedia

Early Yellowstone explorer John Colter’s reports of a fantastical land of “fire and brimstone” were widely met with ridicule and disbelief. But the area’s beauty and unique features were eventually recognized and became protected on March 1, 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant designated Yellowstone America’s first national park.

Who said, “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard”?

A prominent politician and environmentalist from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005) was the founder of Earth Day.

It is estimated that more than ___ percent of species on Earth are still undiscovered.

The Chiriqui harlequin frog, last seen in 1996, was declared extinct in 2020. Brian Gratwicke / Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
The Chiriqui harlequin frog, last seen in 1996, was declared extinct in 2020. Photo: Brian Gratwicke / Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

According to scientific estimates, some 80-90 percent of the 8.7 million species on Earth have not yet been identified. Researchers have even tried to map where many of these undiscovered species may be hiding. While estimates of the current extinction rate vary, it is clear that many species will go extinct before they have been discovered.

What pressing environmental issue did the 1987 Montreal Protocol treaty address?

In the 1970s, scientists discovered that chlorofluorocarbons — chemicals used in aerosols, refrigerants, and other products — were creating a “hole” in the Earth’s protective ozone layer.  Hailed as an extraordinary example of international cooperation, the Montreal Protocol effectively banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons, providing proof that nations could work together to address pressing environmental issues.

What intellectual movement emphasized the natural world and inspired early environmentalist thought?

"Wanderer above the sea of fog" by Caspar David Friedrich, circa 1817. Hamburger Kunsthalle museum.
“Wanderer above the sea of fog” by Caspar David Friedrich, circa 1817. Photo: Hamburger Kunsthalle museum.

Reacting to the urbanization and industrialization of the 19th century, Romanticism emphasized emotions and the natural world. Inspired by the English Romantic poets, the works of Transcendentalist authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau would form the bedrock of the conservation movement in America.

“In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, — he is my creature, and maugre all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson



Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Jenny Drake
Jenny Drake
3 years ago

Very interesting! So much I didn’t know. Plus I learned a new word…..maugre….thanks this was fun!

3 years ago

As the largest university in earth sciences in the world and as a research university in this field, but you did not want to reach the truth and reach the real sciences because all the results from your research in the field of climate, mountains or environment and earth sciences in general all your research and discoveries have no clear evidence. I know what I’m saying, and I challenge any scientist on earth to meet me, ask him questions, and answer me with the right answers. No one in the world knows the real earth’s sciences because the Earth has a base based on it and programmed on it, and no one in the world or a scientist in earth science knows this rule because who knows this rule knows what was going on in the past for earth and now and in the future and these things all scientists today take it From illusions and fantasies, they don’t have any of the right things, and in evidence, they’re all fantasies, just because the truth I have is clear, and the evidence is not fiction, and I can meet any world, no matter what its rank in me.

xander lewis
3 years ago

Too hard of questions

2 years ago

Very informative but a regular joe would not know this. I am an Environmental Studies Major (2013) and I forgot a lot of these. Like even the multiple choice answers were a 25% chance