I'm a little ahead of the rolling current this week, which is something. I'm usually trying to swim to keep up with it. Not this week. This week it's Earth Day. That's a big day for my kids. They go to a Montessori school, which hopefully explains A LOT.
Earth Day is a major event at their school. They make Earth Day shirts. They make art from recycled materials. They sell plants. They learn about the earth and how to nurture it. And then they pass it on...to me.
Who, in proper academic fashion, researches the matter to death and then sits on all that information. Now that I have a blog, I finally have an outlet for it!
So here it comes - what is Earth Day. Hold onto your Birkenstocks. It's one helluva green ride. Actually, I should say hippie ride.
Yep, Earth Day flowered in the 60s, the late sixties. 1969 to be exact. According to popular lore (or the Santa Barbara Community Environmental Council): "The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after that horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth."
Yep, a senator did it. Senator Nelson. See, they do do something there in Washington.
He chose April 22 for strategic reasons. He wanted Earth Day to be a teach-in at universities across the U.S., and to have that, he wanted a day that didn't conflict with Spring Break, religious holidays like Easter or Passover, or exams. School needed to be in session, and the weather would be halfway decent. He chose, April 22, 1970. (The UN actually celebrates on the March equinox. I'm not exactly sure why, but it's a fun bit of trivia if you're, say, ever stuck in a elevator or LA traffic.)
Of course, someone had to see a subversive plot in there somewhere. Time ran a feature saying that some believed the whole thing was a Communist plot. It was the middle of the Cold War. Kruschev beating his shoe against the podium and all. As fate would have it, April 22 happens to be Vladimir Lenin's birthday. Word has it the FBI had surveillance up during the first Earth Day demonstrations. The Daughters of the American Revolution, bless their patriotic souls, protested the first event.
The first Earth Day also occurred smack dab in the middle of a huge debate and concern about, get this, GLOBAL COOLING. Wow. How times change.
Zero Population Growth was the catch phrase of the day. There was a major move underway to get nations to regulate and bring under control their population growth. The only one I've ever heard of getting on board is China.
Either way, a mass of people showed up, and that first demonstration is now clearly tagged as the beginning of the modern environmental movement. In the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead: "EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space."
What's it all mean? I supposed that depends on who you're talking to. Some, like bright green environmentalists, say "earth day symbolizes the marginalization of environmental sustainability" (I'm just quoting here). In other words, it's the duck and cover approach to the environmental disaster looming over us.
Me? I like it. It's a good reminder for the average Joe who is not BRIGHT green but willing to try and make a difference. We all want their to be a world for my kids, our grandkids, and their kids. I'm idealistic enough (and unnerved by Lois Lowry's The Giver) to say I secretly harbor the hope that we somehow get it together so that there to be polar bears in the wild, tigers in Korea, and the lynx in Canada. I'm trying my best. I recycle. I teach my kids about how to be kind to the environment. We hug trees. We save spiders. We turn off the water rather than letting it run.
It's the little things that count, as well as the big ones. These are things I can do. They are things my kids can do. They are things we all can do.
So here's my shout out to EARTH DAY 2009. Hug a tree if you get the chance. Pick up trash. Whatever. Give the earth a little love. She's a great planet.
The Train of Lost Things, by Ammi-Joan Paquette
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