Sunday, April 22, 2012

Everyday is Earth Day!

What does it mean to celebrate Earth Day? For many, as executive director for the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (LGBG)- - Frank Robinson says, it means “to encourage children to develop a natural curiosity about nature, allow them to play in natural environments at their own pace and learn to follow their instincts.” Still, to mark the anniversary of a modern-day environmental movement, a special day – Earth Day - is set aside.
In 1970, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed the first nation-wide environmental protest "to shake up the political establishment”. At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press; and, air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. More often than not, the word ‘environment’ was a word that appeared in spelling bees rather than on the evening news. But on April 22, 1970 an event occurred that ignited our present-day 21st. Century Green Revolution.
More than 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities also organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. As a result, groups which had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly became well-known.
A rare political alignment enlist the support of Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders resulting in the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts. Then, in 1990, Denis Hayes again organized a campaign and this time, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues to world-wide attention. As the millennium approached, he spearhead still another campaign, combining the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990 and 5,000 environmental groups from around the world step on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries.
On April 22nd  we again celebrate an event that has forever changed the way we relate to our environment. What can you do? As Robinson says, “encourage children to develop their natural curiosity about nature, allow them to play in natural environments at their own pace and learn to follow their instincts.” Robinson and his staff on Saturday the 21st or Sunday the 22nd. Have scheduled a Heritage Weekend at Historic Bloemendaal. Participate in an event designed to connect you with a Greater Richmond Area (GRA) site’s history and present-day garden space.   
If you are located nearby central Virginia, as another option, join me and my eco colleagues when we provide an opportunity for all to explore the wonder of science, connect with the green of our community. Scheduled Saturday April 21st Henrico County’s Earth Day celebration is held at Three Lakes Park. As an eco advocate, I’ll be on site as an ‘ask the expert’ that provides strategies related to ‘greening’ urban suburban communities.

On the other hand, as Robinson implies, everyday should be a celebrated ‘earth day’. Consequently, year around, eco events occur. For example, the GRA’s Science Museum of Virginia daily supplies an opportunity to explore the wonder of science. Through hands-on demonstrations, crafts, and activities, children discover they can make a positive difference at home, in their communities, and in the world. Consequently, whether your child’s experience occurs through a book, backyard, organized community event or public garden activity, children can, as Robinson says, “be encouraged to develop natural curiosity about nature while playing in natural environments at their own pace and learn to follow their instincts.”

So, whether a resident of the GRA or elsewhere, join me in the celebration of a special event, Earth Day!
Sylvia Hoehns Wright
Member of the National League of American Pen

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