Earth Day Celebration - Revering and Honoring Mother Earth
What can you do to make Earth Day a part of your every day?
Earth Day, event first observed internationally on April 22, 1970, to emphasize the necessity for the conservation of the world's natural resources. Starting as a student-led campus movement, initially observed on March 21, Earth Day has become a major educational and media event. Environmentalists use it as an occasion to sum up current environmental problems of the planet: the pollution of air, water, and soils; the destruction of habitats; the decimation of hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species; and the depletion of nonrenewable resources. The emphasis is on solutions that will slow and possibly reverse the negative effects of human activities. Such solutions include recycling of manufactured materials, fuel and energy conservation, banning the use of harmful chemicals, halting the destruction of major habitats such as rain forests, and protecting endangered species. MSN Encarta provides further information on each one of these critical areas.
The first international Earth Day was held on April 20, 1970. It is now observed on April 22 every year.
The outgrowth of a student-led campus movement, originally held on March 21, Earth Day was soon embraced as a worldwide celebration of our natural resources -- and an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the conservation and wise use of those resources.
Springtime is an exciting, stimulating season for us, especially for those who care about the environment. Warmer days, balmy breezes, new green leaves, and flowers focus our thoughts on nature and reawaken a sense of wonder about the way our natural world works. Over the past 32 spring times, Earth Day has become an important symbol of our commitment to learning about and caring for the environment.
Take this time to remember that in the United States many positive changes have occurred since 1970. Wildlife species that were almost invisible then are today abundant and thriving, such as white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and walleye. Other species are also reaching modern-day records in populations, including the bald eagle, river otter, peregrine falcon, and osprey.
Since that first Earth Day 32 years ago, we have become much better at conserving and reusing our precious natural resources. Our air and water are cleaner, our cities and country sides are greener, more trees and flowers are being planted, and outdoor recreational opportunities are abundant.
Earth Day celebrates these environmental achievements, but it is just one day out of the year. Protecting the environment and reducing the amount of natural resources we use is something everyone can do every day.
We encourage you to explore the natural world, investigate the environment, make informed environmental decisions, and take responsible actions.
Cleanse and purify the space and smudge participants with sage while playing sacred drums.
Form a circle, entering clockwise in silence.
Call in the Spirits and the Directions (east, south, west, north)
Open the circle by everyone taking hands and invoking the Light.
Together, sing "You are a Circle"
Welcome everyone and share the brief history of Earth Day.
Talk about some of the environmental areas and what each individual can do to preserve Mother Earth
Hand out instruments and everyone move clockwise, dancing and singing to "Hey Younga"
Each person takes a turn in the center, offering Mother Earth a sacred sound, a chant, or an affirmative prayer that reflects respect, commitment and love.
Sing "Coming Light" and pass the candle of Light, symbolizing sacred knowledge and wisdom, to all.
Take hands and close the circle, singing "Our Planet is Turning".
Participants exit circle clockwise in silence.
On the first Earth Day -- April 22, 1970 -- the modern American environmental movement leaped onto the national stage, grabbed the microphone, and began calling for sweeping changes. The resulting social movement helped shape the values and priorities of a whole generation, and it fundamentally altered American politics and policies.
Earth Day was rooted in a 1969 proposal by Gaylord Nelson, then a United States Senator, for a nation-wide "Environmental Teach-In." Nelson urged that the teach-in -- modeled on the earlier anti-war teach-ins -- be held on American college campuses the following spring. The idea resonated strongly across the country, especially among the young.
A campaign headquarters was set up in cramped offices in Washington, DC. Senator Nelson chaired its board of directors. Republican Representative Pete McCloskey was co-chair. Denis Hayes, a recent Stanford University graduate, was hired as National Coordinator. At its peak, the headquarters had a staff of 60 as well as several hundred, mostly-youthful volunteers.
Over the next several months, organizers spilled off college campuses and into communities, where they sought to enlist support from business, labor, educators, and civic organizations. The teach-in concept quickly mushroomed into Earth Day, as the national staff assembled local steering committees in every major city in America.
Having seen previous social movements splinter and lose public enthusiasm, Hayes explicitly tailored a strategy designed to win and retain broad middle class support. As the New York Times described the campaign: "Conservatives were for it. Liberals were for it. Democrats, Republicans and independents were for it. So were the ins, the outs, the Executive and Legislative branches of government."
Building upon public concern over such diverse issues as the population explosion, misuse of pesticides, impact of automobiles on cities, oil spills, and nuclear power, Earth Day's organizers showed how these issues, and dozens of others, were linked ecologically. The new environmentalists argued that biologically illiterate government and business leaders were leading the nation toward a potential catastrophe.
The message clicked. An estimated twenty million people took part in the first Earth Day. Events were held in virtually every city and town in the United States. Congress adjourned for the day to return home to learn about this new concern for "the environment." The New York Times editorialized that "if the environment proves to be a fad, it will be our last fad."
What Happened on that First Earth Day?
- More than 20 million people took part in events - listening to speeches, holding seminars, and taking practical action to clean up the environment.
- In New York City, Fifth Avenue was closed to automobiles and over l00,000 people attended an ecology fair in Central Park.
- Congress adjourned for the day.
- Iowa State University students formed human barricades to keep cars off their campus and students likewise barred cars from passing the gates of Syracuse University, and students at San Jose State University in California buried a car.
- Citizens in West Virginia picked up five tons of garbage off a local highway and deposited it on the steps of the county courthouse.
- In Buffalo, demonstrators paraded through the square of City Hall with brooms, shovels and a sanitation cart, symbolizing a community clean up campaign.
- The Reynolds Metals Company sent trucks to colleges in l4 states to pick up aluminum cans collected at "trash-ins."
- A St. Louis Group named Black Survival staged guerrilla skits to dramatize the role of rats, poisonous lead paint, treeless streets, inferior garbage service, and neighborhoods divided by freeways as part of their environment.
- All three major networks televised the activities of the day, and the Public Broadcast System devoted its entire daytime programming to Earth Day coverage.
What Did Earth Day 1970 Achieve?
A strategic objective of Earth Day was to unite traditional conservation organizations with younger groups focused on urban and industrial issues, and to dramatically increase their memberships. (In 1998, it is hard to recall that most conservation organizations were uninvolved in lobbying against pollution in the 1960s -- not seeing what it had to do with wildlife -- and most urban-oriented groups were dismissive of the "birds and squirrels" groups.) By the end of 1970, the linkage was clear to all, and the next few years amply demonstrated the political power of their combined forces.
- The Environmental Protection Agency was established later in 1970.
- The tough Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed with only a handful of dissenting votes in both Houses of Congress.
- Seven of the original "Dirty Dozen" Congressmen -- designated by the Earth Day organizers -- were defeated in the 1970 elections.
- The military was forced to halt the use of mutagenic defoliants in Southeast Asia.
- Development of the Supersonic Transport was halted.
- The Federal Occupational Health and Safety Act aimed at "in-plant pollution" was passed by a coalition of labor and environmental groups.
- Within the next three years, such landmarks as the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act were passed.
Earth Day 1990
As the 20th anniversary of Earth Day approached, conditions seemed ripe to take Earth Day to an international audience. Ozone depletion, climate change, threats to the world's oceans, and other trans-boundary issues were receiving more media attention. A successful Earth Day could be instrumental in encouraging heads of state to personally attend the forthcoming UN Earth Summit in Brazil, and vote on behalf of several important conventions.
Hayes, by then an attorney, took leave from his law firm to serve as the full-time Chair and CEO. Senator Nelson, then Counselor to the Wilderness Society, agreed to serve as Honorary Chair, and he pursued an extensive speaking schedule on behalf of the event. Christina Desser signed on as Executive Director, while Mark Dubois and Teresa McGlashin co-directed international outreach.
By April, 1990, events had been organized in 141 countries. Estimates of participants around the world ranged as high as 200 million.
Earth Day 1990 Activities in the United States
- In New York City, more than 1.8 million people attended an eco-fair along the length of a closed-off Avenue of the Americas, and listened to speakers and music in Central Park. Speakers included Gov. Mario Cuomo, and Caesar Chavez. NY Mayor David Dinkins proclaimed "Today, black and white, yellow and brown, we are all green." Times Square was closed to traffic and a crowd watched a hot-air balloon decorated as the Earth rise. 50 Cree Indians kayaked down the Hudson River from Canada to participate in the festivities.
- In Washington, DC, 800,000 people crowded onto the Capitol Mall to listen to speeches and music at an event co-hosted by Tom Cruise and Richard Gere.
- 200,000 people converged on Crissy Field in San Francisco for an eco-fair. 30 bicyclists from the Greenbelt Alliance arrived at the gathering after completing a 450-mile bicycle tour around the bay to publicize the need to protect open space. John Francis -- a man who stopped speaking after an oil spill coated San Francisco Bay in 1971 -- began speaking again and recommitted himself to work towards improving the environment.
- Four Greenpeace protesters were arrested for chaining themselves inside locked boxes atop railroad tracks in an attempt to halt shipments of CFCs.
- In St. Paul, MN, the Great Western Iron and Metal Co. had to call police for traffic control when its offer of 50 cents a pound for recyclable cans caused a 2.5 mile backup-
- Demonstrators in white death masks and black shrouds held a "requiem for the Earth" at the gates of a nuclear weapons plants in Oak Ridge, TN.
- The Nature Conservancy signed deals in 50 states to protect 71,000 acres of land.
- Artists in Boston used biodegradable chalk to draw a half-mile-long tableau of birds, butterflies and flowers on an expressway near the Charles River.
- At Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, participants poured fresh water into the lake's polluted water to symbolize their support for a clean-up effort.
- Rutgers University students staged a hazardous waste fashion show, modeling protective gear for toxic cleanup workers.
Earth Day 1990 Activities Around the World
- A team of mountain climbers from the US, the Soviet Union and China picked up more than two tons of trash left behind from earlier expeditions on Mount Everest.
- Environmentalists hiked up a glacier in the Alps to carve a giant thermometer in ice to dramatize global warming concerns.
- Earth Day participants in France made a 500-mile human chain across the country. Groups held hands along the Loire to honor one of Europe's last clean rivers. Supporters of the Green environmental parties mourned victims of pollution at the Arc de Triomphe.
- In Madrid a hot-air balloon rose over the city bearing slogans focusing on the threat to the ozone layer.
- Astronauts and Cosmonauts gathered at the United Nations to relive their first vision of Earth from space.
- 5,000 people staged a road-way lie-down to protest car fumes in Italy.
- Survivors of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl gathered in remembrance of those who lost their lives.
- Many cities, including East and West Berlin, Gdansk, Poland and Vilnius, Lithuania celebrated Earth Day with bicycle rallies protesting smog and demanding that cars ad factories be cleaned up.
- In Czechoslovakia a "Green relay race" had its start amid the blackened coal field "moonscape" of Bohemia.
- In Japan, about 35,000 people gathered on Dream Island -- an island made of garbage in Tokyo Bay -- and set up a temporary facility for recycling tin & aluminum cans.
- 11 people were arrested in Istanbul for staging an unauthorized Earth Day event.
What Did Earth Day 1990 Achieve?
- In many nations (including the United States), Earth Day created an atmosphere in which even reluctant political leaders felt compelled to attend the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Earth Summit was the largest collection of national political leaders ever to meet in one place. It made some important initial steps toward addressing climate change and preserving biodiversity.
- The H.J. Heinz Co announced on Earth Day that it would stop purchasing tuna caught using techniques that kill dolphins. Bumble Bee Seafoods and the Van Camp Seafood Co. swiftly followed suit.
- More than a dozen countries established eco-labeling programs to guide consumers toward environmentally preferable goods and services.
- Several Eastern European nations, responding to public demand, established new environmental protection agencies.
- CARE, the international relief agency, set out new environmental goals for itself in the 1990s that include planting 500,000,000 trees worldwide.
- Top officials in New York broke an impasse to float the largest environmental bond act in the state's history -- a $2 billion package.
Earth Day 2000+
Earth Day 2000 addressed the most sweeping environmental problems and opportunities facing the earth, and it will promote a policy agenda to begin addressing them seriously. Its organizers vowed to make it the largest organized event in history, and to use the campaign surrounding Earth Day 2000 to build a strong, electronically-linked, worldwide environmental constituency.