Earth Day: April 22, 2011

EarthDay2011

EarthDay2011Wait! Again? I thought… Yep, you’re right. There was an Earth Day on March 20, 2011. And now there’s an Earth Day on April 22. So, what gives?

Peace activist John McConnell and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson separately arrived at the same idea. McConnell’s idea was first celebrated in San Francisco and a couple of other cities on March 21, 1970 and Nelson’s first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970 with twenty million people participating.

McConnell’s Earth Day was recognised by the United Nations in 1971 and has always been an international event. McConnell’s choice of March 21 was meant to coincide with the spring equinox, the moment when the sun passes over the equator. At this same moment, the vernal equinox, it is a tradition to ring the Japanese Peace Bell.

Nelson’s Earth Day remained in the United States for two decades before going international in 1990 with the organization of events in 141 countries. The United Nations designated April 22 as International Mother Earth Day in 2009.

Since Nelson’s plan for an American only event, his choice was passed solely on a day which did not conflict with school, either exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and had decent weather being later in the spring. Amusingly enough and unbeknownst to Nelson, his choice turned out to be the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin. For those looking for a Communist conspiracy including the Daughters of the American Revolution and J. Edgar Hoover himself, this was not a coincidence but a "Communist trick".

Earth Day 2011
EarthDay.Org known as the Earth Day Network is the place to get information about this annual event. The 2011 campaign is called A Billion Acts of Green and in their basic guide to this year’s efforts, they write:

This year’s Earth Day theme is Billion Acts of Green®. The purpose of this theme is to mobilize one billion acts of environmental service around the world. The campaign calls for people of all nationalities to commit to an act that helps reduce carbon emissions and promotes sustainability. The act can be a simple gesture, such as washing laundry in cold water, or immense, like picking up a million pounds of trash. Whatever the act may be, Earth Day is a great time to generate as many as possible in your community. Collectively, these acts will not only have an impact on global carbon emissions, but will also demonstrate the power of small every-day individual acts of green.

Other Earth Events
Earth Hour was first celebrated on March 28, 2009, from 8:30pm to 9:30pm local time. Earth Week is celebrated from April 16 to April 22, the last day being Earth Day.

Earth Day Quotes
About.Com presents a number of interesting quotes from people both famous and not so famous that resonate with the idea of "Mother Earth" as a gift we should all cherish.

The earth does not belong to man — man belongs to the earth.
-Chief Seattle

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.
-Frank Lloyd Wright

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
-Native American Proverb

There is a great need for the introduction of new values in our society, where bigger is not necessarily better, where slower can be faster, and where less can be more.
-Gaylord Nelson

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
-Margaret Mead

For 200 years we’ve been conquering nature. Now we’re beating it to death.
-Tom McMillan

We have met the enemy and he is us.
-Walt Kelly

Of course, can we leave out the more comical look at these issues which although funny, say something about ourselves and our attitude to all this?

Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?
-Groucho Marx

Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.
-David Letterman

Earth Day Activities
Various web sites list a number of activities to raise our awareness of Earth Day and its message of looking at our environment and trying to do something about it.

Public Transit
Instead of driving your car to work, why not take transit? Of course, when I say that I had to think that this is something more people should consider doing every single day, not just on Earth Day.

Personal story: The family divested itself of a car and I started taking the subway to work. What did I discover? I didn’t have to fight traffic. I then had a hour to read or work on my portable computer. After a few months, I signed up for a course to go back and study some French. And what did I discover? My time going to work and my time coming home from work became my study time. Instead of commuting being a pain, I managed to turn this into a profitable part of my week. Now I would hate to have to go back to driving to and from work. What a waste of time!

Recycle
I try to do this all the time but have come to realise that recycling and what can be recycled is dependent on the services available to individual communites.

Personal story: I purchased a great take-out lunch yesterday packaged in a plastic container. However, much to my dismay, I discovered that the plastic was labelled number seven and my office building only recycles plastics number one and two. I had to throw the plastic container in the garbage because it couldn’t be recycled. I would have taken it home but found out number seven plastic is not recycled where I live either. Ah!!! Obviously our communities themselves need to do more to make recycling more universal and comprehensive. It’s one thing to have people negligeant in sorting things for recycling; it’s another thing to find out you can’t recycle even if you want to.

Join an Earth Day Rally
Even if you don’t go to a rally per se, there are smaller local events planned. My office building is holding an event to mark the occasion but more than that, all during this week, Earth Week, they are publicizing recycling in an effort to make everyone in the entire building better aware of recycling.

Final Word
I must confess to still being a bit confused over having 2 Earth Days, one on March 21 and another on April 22. Both are recognised by the United Nations; both are international. However it strikes me that April 22 is the really big day for organizing events concerning the environment.

Just one caveat with the hope I won’t be raining on anybody’s parade. We as individuals can do our part by planting a tree, buying an energy efficient light bulb, and doing more recycling. However, it is at a national level or an international level we must lobby our governments to do more as it is at this level, on this scale that enormous change can take place.

In my blog Let’s go green… er, black?, I talk about our need for electricity, how much coal we all may be burning to produce electricity and just what we collectively are doing and should be doing. I wrote:

A couple of years ago, I was reading an analysis in the editorial pages of the Toronto Star where the author [looked] at our green efforts. He listed off our various initiatives in North America like changing traditional light bulbs to more energy efficient ones, getting more green appliances, turning off unnecessary lights and dimming others, etc. Then he said that these types of efforts, while laudable were laughable when one took into account that at that moment, China was constructing a new coal-fired electrical power generating station every week. All of our light bulbs were dwarfed by the new developments elsewhere in the world which were leading to even higher levels of pollution.

The Kyoto Protocol aims to fight global warming. It sets out targets in the reduction of various pollutants known to contribute to this phenomenon. As of October 2010, 191 countries have ratified the agreement with one very notable exception: the United States, a country ranked by several reports as the biggest polluter on the planet.

I intend on doing my part even if my meagre contribution is a drop in the proverbial bucket. After all, if we get enough drops, we can fill up that bucket!

References

Wikipedia: Earth Day
Earth Day is a day that is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment…. April 22 corresponds to spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues. In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22 International Mother Earth Day.

Wikipedia: History of the Equinox Earth Day
The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy is that moment in time (not a whole day) when the center of the Sun can be observed to be directly "above" the Earth’s equator, occurring around March 20 and September 23 each year. In most cultures, the equinoxes and solstices are considered to start or separate the seasons.

Wikipedia: International Mother Earth Day
International Mother Earth Day is celebrated each April 22nd at the United Nations. It was established in 2009 by the General Assembly under Resolution A/RES/63/278. The Resolution was introduced by The Plurinational State of Bolivia and endorsed by over 50 member states. It recognizes that "the Earth and its ecosystems are our home" and that "it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth." The term Mother Earth is used because it "reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit."

Wikipedia: Gaylord Nelson
Gaylord Anton Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005) was an American Democratic politician from Wisconsin. He was the principal founder of Earth Day… Nelson was always passionate about the environment. He is mentioned with Al Gore, Karson Coker, and Steve Erwin.

Wikipedia: John McConnell
John McConnell (born March 22, 1915), the founder and creator of Earth Day, has demonstrated a major passion for peace, religion, and science throughout his life. He has made efforts to relieve human suffering and promote the common good. His interests include attempting to answer many of the critical problems that face humanity today.

Earth Day Network
The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Earth Day Canada
Earth Day Canada (EDC) is a national environmental communications organization mandated to improve the state of the environment by empowering Canadians to achieve local solutions.

United Nations: Internation Mother Earth Day
The proclamation of 22 April as International Mother Earth Day is an acknowledgement that the Earth and its ecosystems provide its inhabitants with life and sustenance. It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.

Earth Society Foundation
The Earth Society Foundation was established by John McConnell and Margaret Mead to foster worldwide participation in the peaceful care of Earth, and to promote the annual celebration of Earth Day on the Equinox (March 20-21).

About.Com: A Brief History of Earth Day
The enduring appeal of Earth Day resonated far beyond its origins By Marc Lallanilla

Planetpals: stuff for kids

About.Com: Your 2011 Green Holiday Calendar By Marc Lallanilla
January 1: New Year’s Day: Resolve to Go Green in 2011
February 2: World Wetlands Day
March 20/21: Spring (Vernal) Equinox
March 21: World Forestry Day
March 22: World Water Day
March 23: World Meteorological Day
Last Saturday of March (3/26/2011): Earth Hour
April 22: Earth Day
Last Friday in April (4/29/2011): Arbor Day
Second Saturday in May (5/14/2011): International Migratory Bird Day
May 22: International Day for Biological Diversity
First Saturday of June (6/4/2011): National Trails Day
June 5: World Environment Day
June 8: World Oceans Day
June 15: Global Wind Day
July 11: World Population Day
September 4: National Wildlife Day
September 21: International Day of Peace
September 22: World Car-Free Day
First Week of October: Junk Mail Awareness Week
November 15: America Recycles Day
Day After Thanksgiving (11/25/2011): Buy Nothing Day

my blog: Rob Ford drops the bag… er, ball
While I’m up here on my soapbox, one other thing which is bugging me. I talk about how the mayor of Toronto has promised to drop the city’s five cent plastic bag tax. The CBC reported that a number of grocery stores such as the Metro and Sobey’s chains have said their plastic bag distribution rates have fallen between 70 and 80 per cent since the bylaw went into effect. Hey folks, I can think of no better time than Earth Day to remind eveybody to recycle our bags. There is absolutely no need for us to be taking plastic bags, using them once, then throwing them out to fill up our garbage dump sites. (I have a funny picture of a plastic bag on which is written: "I’m a plastic bag, but you can always reuse me, idiots!")

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

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