By Jueseppi B.
Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.
In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970.
Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues.
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Earth Day is a name used for 2 similar global observances. While some people celebrate Earth Day around the time of the March Equinox, others observe the occasion on April 22 each year.
Earth Day aims to inspire awareness of and appreciation for earth’s environment. It’s not to be confused with Earth Hour
What do people do
The April 22 Earth Day is usually celebrated with outdoor performances, where individuals or groups perform acts of service to earth. Typical ways of observing Earth Day include planting trees, picking up roadside trash, conducting various programs for recycling and conservation, using recyclable containers for snacks and lunches. Some people are encouraged to sign petitions to governments, calling for stronger or immediate action to stop global warming and to reverse environmental destruction. Television stations frequently air programs dealing with environmental issues.
The April 22 Earth Day, founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, was first organized in 1970 to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.
Some people prefer to observe Earth Day around the time of the March equinox. In 1978, American anthropologist Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, founded by John McConnell. She stated that the selection of the March Equinox for Earth Day made planetary observance of a shared event possible.
History of the Equinox Earth Day (March 20)
The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy is that point in time (not a whole day) when the Sun is 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.
John McConnell first introduced the idea of a global holiday called “Earth Day” at the 1969 UNESCO Conference on the Environment. The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto on March 21, 1970. Celebrations were held in various cities, such as San Francisco and in Davis, California with a multi-day street party. UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell’s global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:
May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.
United Nations secretary-general Kurt Waldheim observed Earth Day with similar ceremonies on the March equinox in 1972, and the United Nations Earth Day ceremony has continued each year since on the day of the March equinox (the United Nations also works with organizers of the April 22 global event). Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:
“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.
Earth Day draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate.”
At the moment of the equinox, it is traditional to observe Earth Day by ringing the Japanese Peace Bell, which was donated by Japan to the United Nations. Over the years, celebrations have occurred in various places worldwide at the same time as the UN celebration. On March 20, 2008, in addition to the ceremony at the United Nations, ceremonies were held in New Zealand, and bells were sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo, and many other locations. The equinox Earth Day at the UN is organized by the Earth Society Foundation.
Earth Day ringing the peace bell is celebrated around the world in many towns, ringing the Peace Bell in Vienna, Berlin, and elsewhere. A memorable event took place at the UN in Geneva, celebrating a Minute for Peace ringing the Japanese Shinagawa Peace Bell with the help of the Geneva Friendship Association and the Global Youth Foundation, directly after in deep mourning about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant catastrophe 10 days before.
Beside the Spring Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere, the observance of the Spring Equinox for the Southern Hemisphere is of equal importance ! It is a “new sign of hope” for Peace that the International Day of Peace is celebrated on the Spring Equinox of the South! right along the original intentions of John McConnell, U-Thant, Muller, Mead,
April 22 observances
Growing eco-activism before Earth Day 1970
In 1968, Morton Hilbert and the U.S. Public Health Service organized the Human Ecology Symposium, an environmental conference for students to hear from scientists about the effects of environmental degradation on human health. This was the beginning of Earth Day. For the next two years, Hilbert and students worked to plan the first Earth Day. In April 1970—along with a federal proclamation from U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson—the first Earth Day was held.
Project Survival, an early environmentalism-awareness education event, was held at Northwestern University on January 23, 1970. This was the first of several events held at university campuses across the United States in the lead-up to the first Earth Day. Also, Ralph Nader began talking about the importance of ecology in 1970.
The 1960s had been a very dynamic period for ecology in the US. Pre-1960 grassroots activism against DDT in Nassau County, New York, had inspired Rachel Carson to write her bestseller, Silent Spring (1962).
Significance of April 22
Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in”. He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks. Moreover, it did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22. The day also fell after the anniversary of the birth of noted conservationist John Muir.
Unbeknownst to Nelson, April 22, 1970, was coincidentally the 100th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin, when translated to the Gregorian calendar (which the Soviets adopted in 1918). Time reported that some suspected the date was not a coincidence, but a clue that the event was “a Communist trick”, and quoted a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as saying, “subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them.”
J. Edgar Hoover, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, may have found the Lenin connection intriguing; it was alleged the FBI conducted surveillance at the 1970 demonstrations. The idea that the date was chosen to celebrate Lenin’s centenary still persists in some quarters, an idea borne out by the similarity with the subbotnik instituted by Lenin in 1920 as days on which people would have to do community service, which typically consisted in removing rubbish from public property and collecting recyclable material. Subbotniks were also imposed on other countries within the compass of Soviet power, including Eastern Europe, and at the height of its power the Soviet Union established a nation-wide subbotnik to be celebrated on Lenin’s birthday, April 22, which had been proclaimed a national holiday celebrating communism by Nikita Khrushchev in 1955.
Earth Week April 21-25, 2014
This year’s theme for the week of events, “Connecting the Drops,” helps illustrate the campus’s water-saving strategies and the need for individuals to conserve water as California faces a severe drought. Events across campus—many of them led by student organizations—will engage students, staff, faculty and local community members in fun and educational activities designed to raise awareness about recycling, sustainability, water conservation and more.