Crabapple Tree. Photo by Margaret M Hoff
April 22nd is Earth Day and all around the country, people are gathering to celebrate the Earth as well as figure out how to clean it up. It is a wonderful time to get outside, meet your eco-communities and learn some new tricks on being green. Plus, there’s usually great music and good food, so let’s get ready to celebrate the Earth!
Earth Day was first observed in 1970 as an environmental “teach-in.” It was an amazing first holiday – it seemingly organized itself into a gathering of 20 million people. Read what the founder of Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson has to say about the beginnings of Earth Day:
Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:
"Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam...a national day of observance of environmental problems...is being planned for next spring...when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'...coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned...."
It was obvious that we were headed for a spectacular success on Earth Day. It was also obvious that grassroots activities had ballooned beyond the capacity of my U.S. Senate office staff to keep up with the telephone calls, paper work, inquiries, etc. In mid-January, three months before Earth Day, John Gardner, Founder of Common Cause, provided temporary space for a Washington, D.C. headquarters. I staffed the office with college students and selected Denis Hayes as coordinator of activities.
Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at the grassroots level. We had neither the time nor resources to organize 20 million demonstrators and the thousands of schools and local communities that participated. That was the remarkable thing about Earth Day. It organized itself.
Now, almost 40 years later, this environmental event is still going strong. The Earth Day Network is a driving force steering environmental awareness around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect change in local, national, and global policies. Earth Day Network’s international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year. Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year.
In the Knoxville area, we have several events happening over the two weekends surrounding Earth Day. Knoxville’s 10th Annual EarthFest will be happening on Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 10 to 6 pm at the Pellissippi State TCC. There will be food, fun, music, entertainment and lots of environmental education opportunities. It is great because this is a “waste-free” event, meaning that the goal is to be a Zero-Waste Event again. Exhibitors and food vendors will be required to control the types of materials they sell or distribute and EarthFest organizers, sponsors and volunteers will provide recycling and composting opportunities for everything distributed at the event.
Oak Ridge’s 2nd Annual Earth Day celebration is also a zero-waste event! It will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2009 from 11 to 6 pm at Bissell Park in Oak Ridge. It is a family and pet-friendly, free event featuring great food, homegrown tunage, a dedicated children's park that supports "No Child Left Inside,” artisans and green vendors, animals, enviro-education, and prizes.
Learn how you can help our Earth at your local Earth Day celebration by clicking here to see what’s going on in your community!