Though writers and philosophers as far back as the 1700s (such as Rousseau in his work Emile, or On Education) stressed the importance of nature in children's education, the movement for environmental education accelerated during the Cold War. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, revealed the dangerous effects of pesticides on the environment and on humans.
The first Earth Day in 1970 involved people in communities across the United States and grew to involve countries across the world. In 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, Sweden, recognized the importance of environmental education in promoting environmental sustainability. This conference produced The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, known as the Stockholm Declaration. In 1975, the Stockholm conference was followed up with the International Workshop on Environmental Education, which was held in Belgrade to define the goals, methods, and importance of environmental education. This education was not only to be emphasized for schools, but also for the general public. In the United States, the National Environmental Education Act of 1990 allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create federal-level programs in the area of environmental education.