Woo! Go Earth!

Do you like any of the following?

-playing or walking around outside…barefoot                        -flying kites

-eating fresh off the vine/plant/tree/etc. fruits and veg   -camping

-breathing in crisp, refreshing fall air                                          -skiing/snowboarding

-swimming in bodies of water that aren’t a pool                     -fishing & hunting

-bird and animal watching & photography                                -spring storms

Did you answer yes to any of these? I’m guessing you probably picked out at least one that strikes your fancy…or at least one you’re interested in doing in the future. Yes? In fact, many of you probably enjoy a variety of these activities. I, for one, am a huge fan of blackberries and cherry tomatoes directly off the bramble or vine (respectively)…sooo good despite the probability of eating an insect. If nothing else, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you at least KNOW someone who would be interested in some of these activities…therefore, hear me out.

Today is Earth Day…actually every April 22nd is Earth Day since its creation in 1970. The holiday, or special day, or what-have-you, was the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. He was inspired by the anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” taking place across the nation on college campuses. Using the basis of the “teach-ins” Nelson envisioned a large scale environmental demonstration to “shake up the political establishment and force this issue [the environment] onto the national agenda”. The idea was announced at a conference in 1969; Nelson spoke of his idea and invited the entire nation to get involved. Word spread quickly and Nelson was joined in the organization by a young activist/Stanford student president named Dennis Hayes. Hayes took on the duties of Earth Day’s national coordinator and with the help of an army of student volunteers and a variety of Nelson’s staff and Nelson himself, got the event organized. On April 22, 1970 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities came together to bring environmental issues to the forefront. Rallies were held across the nation in Philadelphia, Chicago, LA, New York, etc. In Washington DC congress went into recess so its members could speak with their constituents. In New York the mayor shut down a portion of 5th Ave. and spoke at a rally along with actors Paul Newman and Ali McGraw. This first event spurned the environment into the limelight, and has been attributed to the passing of several protective laws: The Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the endangered Species Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In addition, in December of that same year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established. The EPA is tasked with protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment–air, water, and land.

After the first “celebration”, the movement continued to grow. In 1990 Earth Day went global. Demonstrators, participants, and volunteers totaling over 200 million persons from over 140 nations came together. In 2000 the movement had another boost. Focusing on global warming and a push for clean energy 5,000 environmental groups in a record 184 countries reached out to hundreds of millions of people. Earth Day 2000 utilized the internet to bring people and groups together across the globe, organizing events throughout the world including a talking drum chain that traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa and hundreds of thousands of people gathered for a rally on the National Mall. Today, the Earth Day Network (the organizers of the event for the last few decades) collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries and have managed to get more than 1 billion people involved in the events. Each year, Earth Day celebrations have a purpose or a theme. Usually these themes have to deal with an environmental danger or some way to reverse/stall/end environmental harm. This year the theme is “green cities”. There will be a large scale promotion of green building technologies and the greening of cities (like parks on abandoned train tracks or building roofs).

Want to take place in events? Lucky for you, there are events in cities big and small all across the globe. Missouri has one very large “celebration” in St. Louis every year…the St. Louis Earth Day Festival which takes place on Sunday. Visitors are welcomed to learn all about sustainable products and services, meet local non-profit organizations and much on local, organic, and vegetarian goodies. Many programs are centered in schools, teaching young students about the earth and how to protect it. In Jefferson City, MO there area elementary schools are invited to the capital lawns to meet with environment and sustainability organizations to learn about the area, preservation, and all things nature. Often students are sent home with a sapling to plant as well a a number of goodies, magnets, pencils, etc. from the various collaborators who run booths. The state offices located nearby are also welcomed to participate and many offices offer an extra 15 or 30 minutes to walk or get some kind of exercise, preferably outside. Many Kansas City area businesses and schools do their own programs. Even big names get in to the fun…this year Apple has offered free recycling on all of their used products and have vowed to begin powering all of their stores, offices, and data centers with renewable energy to reduce the pollution caused by its devices and online services.

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