Every year, as each holiday approaches, the same thing always crosses my mind: Why do we need a specific day to celebrate or acknowledge something? While some make more sense than others since they are actually tied to something important happening — the Fourth of July, New Year’s, etc. — other holidays are confusing. Take Valentine’s Day. Do we really need a specific day where we try to be kind and romantic to our mates? And St. Patrick’s Day — while I would never dishonor my Irish heritage, why do we insist upon celebrating by drinking as much Irish grog as our livers will handle? It would seem one day is just as good as another for drinking, if one so chooses.
But of all the holidays that are confusing, the most confusing is Earth Day. Although Earth Day, which falls on April 22 every year, represents a coming together of millions of people across the planet to promote environmental awareness, every day hundreds of millions of Americans go out into the world to go to work, to the grocery store, to school, to anywhere and everywhere. Every day the sun shines on us, the wind blows through the trees, plants bloom in our yards, and the world just keeps spinning.
The problem with Earth Day is the same problem we have with various other holidays: why do we need a specific day to be doing something we should be doing every day?
Former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, became environmentally conscious long before the green movement — before it was hip to eat organic and commendable to drive hybrids. Nelson, who was the governor of Wisconsin before taking a seat in the senate in the 1960s, saw the Earth deteriorating. He saw rivers catching fire from the dumping of combustible toxins and cities shrouded in auto exhaust smog. He also saw that politicians and the media, at the time, didn’t seem to care.
Nelson decided to take it upon himself to bring attention to these ecological nightmares and promote change. Although he received support from President John F. Kennedy, he still lacked political and media support for his endeavors. Due to the contentious climate of our county during the era of the Vietnam War, Nelson was able to promote his idea through tactics similar to those of the war protesters, and Earth Day was born. The first Earth Day fell on April 22, 1970, with around 20 million Americans partaking in events nationwide.
As well-intentioned as Senator Nelson was, we can’t minimize the fact that every day should be Earth Day.
Every day we can opt to ride our bikes instead of drive our cars to a local park. Every day we can wash and reuse, or at the very least, recycle our plastic baggies and containers instead of just throwing them away. Everyday we can lessen our carbon footprint by making just a few small changes in our lives that will make our planet a healthier and cleaner place to live for ourselves and our children.
While Earth Day celebrations are important in bringing our communities together, I hope we all stick to why Earth Day was founded in the first place: making the environment a priority in our daily lives so as to keep it clean and healthy. Think globally, act locally — every day.
*In this week’s Earth issue, we have included various articles addressing ecological matters in our region, from Runkle Canyon to the treasure known as the Channel Islands. We stand behind the various citizens, agencies and organizations who continue to fight for a cleaner and greener Ventura County.