Thoughts on Earth Day
Thirty-five years ago, Senator Gaylord Nelson conceived of the first Earth Day as a massive “teach-in” event to mobilize kids across the country to get involved with the environment.
An astounding 20 million people participated in earth awareness activities on April 22, 1970.
Today, Earth Day is observed by more than half a billion people around the world who want to promote a cleaner, healthier world for themselves and especially future generations.
In the United States alone, this year there were nearly 12,000 grassroots events involving millions of people, feature articles, and tens of thousands of classrooms learning about environmental and health issues.
While these numbers are quite encouraging, there is still much to be done. The April/May issue of Mother Earth News, features an article by Denis Hayes, the national coordinator for that first Earth Day, which gives an overview of the history of Earth Day and issues a plea for readers “to unite in defense of our planet”.
Denis describes how Earth Day, based in the science of ecology, was able to cross party lines and unite people across the country for a common purpose. He explains how two powerful but separate movements – the conservation movement, rooted mainly in hunting and fishing – and the environmental health movement, which concerned itself with the poisoning and pollution of the Earth by manmade chemicals – joined forces with a unified message that while America may have been growing wealthier, Americans were not necessarily better off as a result of this wealth.
The effects of that first Earth Day and successive Earth Days for years to come had a profound impact on political policy resulting in the formation of the world’s first Environmental Protections Agency (EPA), the creation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the enactment of numerous laws to stop industry from further polluting the Earth. Over the next two decades, environmental awareness and action became part of the fabric of the American culture.
But all is not right with the world. Denis points out that sadly, in the last 10-15 years, much of the earth movement momentum has been lost to the fragmentation of various environmental coalitions and a growing disillusionment with regulatory agencies and their true effectiveness. In the political arena, the environment has taken a backseat to America’s growing concern for health care and homeland security issues. It is for these reasons that Denis issues a call for us to unite, once again, in defense of our planet. While many of you may have rolled up your sleeves to participate in an Earth Day activity in your community, please don’t let it stop there. There are endless opportunities year-round for each of us to improve the health of our Earth. Whether you actively volunteer to work with your local watershed association or educate yourself on important environmental issues by reading scientific journals, let’s work to keep the environment at the top of the list of critical issues affecting our world. Let’s make every day Earth Day.
Earth Day Expressions Art Contest
The “official” Earth Day Expressions judges (a.k.a. the Biohabitats staff) truly enjoyed the art contest submissions that many of you shared with us. First of all, we’d like to thank all of you that took the time to participate in our contest. As with many competitions, the judging was no easy task. Ultimately, we arrived at the selection of one first place winner and three honorable mention winners. And without further adieu, we present the winners of Biohabitats’ Earth Day Expressions…
Jessica R. Yoder, Pike County Conservation District
Title of Art: Nature’s Quilt: Warmth In Autumn
Description: Knowing that these leaves would shortly fade away to autumn hues, I wanted to capture them for a moment and let them stamp the earth with nature’s array of colors. Leaves were collected in Northern New Jersey and pressed into the fabric to make the imprints.
How does your submission express your awe of nature’s wonders: While the colorful transition of trees during the fall months doesn’t seem as impressive when you understand the simple chemistry behind it, the leaves still flutter for your attention. Over the years, I’ve discovered the simple joy of wrapping myself up in a quilt and watching the leaves rustle about on the ground early in the morning. After longing for that experience in the depth of winter, I decided to create a quilt that would showcase some of these treasured moments. Knowing their vivid glory was about to fade, I offered them a place on my quilt so that I can experience them all year long.
In recognition of Jessica’s beautiful quilt submission, Biohabitats has made a contribution to The Nature Conservancy to protect 10 acres of endangered forests in her name. In addition, Jessica has been awarded a 1-year individual membership to the Society for Ecological Restoration International (SER).
Honorable Mention Winners
Description: I took this photo on March 25, 2005 in the upper Green River watershed above Howard Hanson Dam; this field of skunk cabbages was mixed with water parsley, American brooklime, and water cress in a lovely wetland seep along the edge of the reservoir.
How does your submission express your awe of nature’s wonders:This field of skunk cabbages was a resplendent oasis of bright yellow in a forest of flooded trees and shrubs. To me, they symbolize the tenacity and resurrection of life after the dark days of winter. We heard the sound of flowing water several hundred yards away, drawing us to witness the perfume of the cabbages floating on the spring breeze. When I close my eyes, I can picture those cabbages and hear that water and I feel hopeful and comforted in the knowledge that spring has again come and the cycle of life is again renewed.
How does your submission express your awe of nature’s wonders: My awe is in nature’s flat-out weirdness…
Andrew Bryant, Independent Research Scientist, Canada
Title: Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger)
Description: This photograph was taken while visiting the beach at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, March 12, 2005. I got to see some new birds in a variety of ways and got to learn (again) the message that we are all connected in this universe.
In recognition of these talented artists, Biohabitats has made a contribution to The Nature Conservancy to protect 2 acres of endangered forests or coral reef for each of the three winners. In addition, each winner will receive the much-sought-after Biohabitats baseball cap.