Despite the doom and gloom about the environment, we made it to another Earth Day! Since 1970, April 22 has been designated a time to protest environmental wrongs and support actions to improve the planet. The good news is, tomorrow is another Earth Day. And there will be one after that. Every day is Earth Day.
Still, it’s nice to have a special day to stop and appreciate the beauty and wonder of Mother Earth. Afterall, if we can make room on the calendar for National Jelly Bean Day (also April 22) we should have an annual 24 hours of recognition for our world and environmental issues.
It was a Great Laker who founded Earth Day. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) said he’d started thinking about putting concerns about the environment into the “political limelight” in 1962. He proposed a “national conservation tour” and in 1963 President Kennedy made the trek, visiting 11 states in five days. But the tour failed to ignite the level of interest Nelson had hoped for.
In 1969 he was inspired by Vietnam War protests on college campuses as a means of gaining attention for a cause. In a history of Earth Day Nelson recalls, “I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda.” In 1970 Earth Day launched as an “environmental teach-in” on college campuses, and grassroots events across the U.S. attracted 20 million demonstrators.
April 22 is now a worldwide celebration dedicated to promoting awareness and protection of the environment. The Washington, D.C. based Earth Day Network, “the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement,” states that more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities each year. The global theme for Earth Day 2016 is “Trees for the Earth,” and EDN is promoting the planting of 7.8 billion trees—“one tree for every person on the planet”—between now and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020.
At the EDN website you can take a quiz to measure your Ecological Footprint and learn about your impact—how many planet Earths, productive acres and tons of carbon dioxide would be needed if everyone lived as you do. You can opt to be guilted into reducing—er, learn how you can reduce—that footprint.
EDN invites you to join the cause and “make your mark in the urgent fight against climate change.” Aha. There it is. Of course it’s important to conserve and protect our environment. We’ve learned a lot about being good stewards of the planet since 1970. But let’s use science, not the doom and gloom global warming—oops, climate change—agenda. As Weather Channel founder John Coleman says of global warming, “When all the scare talk is pushed aside, it is the science that should be the basis for the debate. And the hard cold truth is that the basic theory has failed.”
Scientists are studying the effects of nature on brains and bodies, reports Florence Williams in a recent National Geographic article, “This Is Your Brain on Nature.” And there’s plenty of agreement—backed by research—that the great outdoors is good for what ails us. University of Michigan environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan wrote, “Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost.” It exists, they continued, and it’s called “interacting with nature.”
I like the positive approach of Green Elk Rapids, a volunteer group organized in 2009 to educate the northwestern Michigan community about environmental issues. It seems they accomplish a lot through clean-up and recycling programs, hikes, book discussions and other events, like the upcoming appearances by writer Richard Louv. He coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” and is the author of nine books about the importance of human connection to the natural world, including Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age and his latest, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. Sounds like Louv sees every day as Earth Day.
Click here for Earth Day happenings in Michigan this weekend.