In 1970, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, proposed the first nationwide environmental protest "to shake up the political establishment” and force this issue onto the national agenda. 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, 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 organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that 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 occur that enlisted 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. In 1990, Denis Hayes organized another big 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 again spearheaded yet 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 were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. So, on April 22nd., we again celebrate an event that has forever changed the way we see our environment.
What can you do as a parent? As Robinson says, “encourage your 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 have kicked off the season with hosting events which provide the opportunity for families to enjoy music and entertainment as they engage in activities that promote environmental stewardship. Another central Virginia site which equally hosts activities is Maymont’s Nature Center to attend these events, children must be accompanied by an adult, pre-register and admission fees apply. See www.maymont.org for details.
Still, as Robinson implies, everyday should be a celebrated ‘earth day’. Consequently, year around, the Great Richmond Virginia areas hosts events in which to participate. The Children's Garden provides an excellent "outdoor classroom" for young visitors to cultivate their interest in nature and learn about environmental stewardship. Through hands-on demonstrations, crafts, and activities children discover that they can make a positive difference at home, in their communities, and in the world. See www.lewisginter.org to identify events of interest to your family. And, if your children are too young to participate in active recreation activities, expose them to the fascination of nature through “scratch and sniff” board books. These books appeal to the senses of touch, sight and smell and are available through DK Publishing, www.dk.com.
Avid naturalists, such as master gardeners, have recognized for years that exposure to the environment is not only fun for children but teach them skills such as patience, caring for something other than themselves and the value of work, itself. Applied in a more formal event, such as a celebration, children can learn about cultural diversity, science and environmental concepts as well as gain self-confidence and self-esteem.
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.”
About the author - Spotlighted by Landscape Architect magazine as an Industry ‘Mover & Shaker’, Sylvia Hoehns Wright, recipient of the Turning America from Eco-weak to Eco-chic Award and founder of the Plants of CARE program, challenges all to ‘change America’s landscape’, move their life-styles from eco-weak to eco-chic – ‘green’ life’s garden, one scoop at a time! To acquire details of Wright’s activities, visit her web site www.TheWrightScoop.com or contact Sylvia@TheWrightScoop.com or follow tweets at ID Wright Scoop or postings at facebook The Wright Scoop.