We have all heard about Earth Day since the mid-90s, but for average Filipinos then, it was nothing more than a Hallmark holiday. It took us about five more years to start realizing that our ailing planet needed help, and fast—a bit late from an environmentalist's point of view, but as the saying goes, better late than never.
EARTH DAY'S ORIGINS
Peace activist John McConnell shared his idea of dedicating a holiday for the people of Earth to work together for peace, justice, and caring for our planet at the UNESCO Conference on the Environment held in San Francisco in November of 1969. He then implored then Secretary-General U Thant to sign an Earth Day proclamation, which was to be celebrated on the first day of spring, a known holy day in the Christian world. The United Nations celebrated their first Earth Day on March 20, 1971. To this day, the United Nations rings the Peace Bell every year to announce the time for all to pray, meditate, or contemplate on their responsibility for our planet's care.
However, just before McConnell proposed his version of Earth Day, US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin pitched for a nationwide teach-in day to a conservation group in Seattle in September of 1969. Nelson's plan was realized on April 22, 1970. About 20 million Americans joined the protest against the deterioration of the environment in coast-to-coast rallies.
During one UNESCO conference, two of Nelson's volunteers suggested to McConnell that both versions of Earth Day be merged. While the peace activist was reluctant, worried that it might cause confusion between the two approaches—McConnell's to raise awareness, and Nelson's focus on problems—McConnell was nonetheless pleased because the April 22 event brought people’s attention to the needs of our ailing planet.
These days, the people who participate in Earth Day events come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds, but they all agree to help our fragile environment now. Lately, eco-warriors have been focusing on global warming, thanks to former US vice-president Al Gore, who opened our eyes to the problem in An Inconvenient Truth.
POINTS TO PONDER
- A freshwater mussel can clean a gallon of water in an hour. If we have a whole community of freshwater mussels we'll have a natural water treatment plant!
- If we voluntarily or involuntarily poison our environment, we're actually poisoning ourselves. For example, a lakeside factory may emit noxious gasses and toxins, which are absorbed by algae in the lake—which in turn are eaten by fish. Guess who eats the fish!
- Paraben is and one of the biggest environmental toxins, and it comes in beauty products that we happily rub on our faces with hopes to remain young forever. Check Skin Deep reviews to see if the products you have been using are deemed toxic.
- On the Chinese zodiac, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger, but the king of the jungle is loosing its habitat to industrialization. The tigers are not alone in their increasing homelessness—Africa has lost 65 of its wildlife habitats to other uses.
For more fun (or frightening) environmental facts, check out this FN article: "10 Facts You Should Know (But May Wish You Didn't) about the Environment."
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Want to have some fun this Earth Day and take a stand for the environment at the same time? Check out these green events!
10 Million Movement
The 10MM campaign to get at least 10 Million Filipinos to pledge to help save the environment.
Earth Jam 2010
April 23, 2010, Tomas Morato, Quezon City
This concert aims to raise awareness about the current state of our environment through music and entertainment.
Earth Day Main Event
April 22, 2010, SM Mall of Asia
Programs include Zero Basura Olympics, MusiKalikasan, Junk Art Contest, among others.
CCP Earth Day Celebration
April 22, 2010, CCP Complex
Activities include a regatta (Sailing is a sport and eco-friendly way to travel!), Manila Bay clean up, and Environmental Film Festival.
April 24 and 25, 2010, Davao City
Davao's biggest e-waste collection, this event also aims to raise awareness on e-waste disposal problems for developing cities.
For more information about Earth Day, go to the official online action center at EarthDay.org. For other local events and activities, check out the Earth Day Philippines site at EarthDayPhils.org .
(Photo source: sxc.hu)