Earth Day: Genesis & Celebrations

Mira Pawar

Mira Pawar

Mira is is an avid traveler and loves writing travelogues.
Mira Pawar

Mira tells us about the beginning of the Earth Day, tracing its genesis. Now, 192 countries celebrate the event. Rather than paying lip service to the degradation of the Earth, it’s necessary to be proactive and aware. Here’s Different Truths’ special feature on Earth Day.

Earth Day is an event celebrated across the globe to spread awareness on environmental issues and suggestions to protect our nature and make our environment clean and appreciate Mother Earth’s natural resources. This event is held annually on the 22nd day of April by more than 192 countries. Initially, the Earth Day was celebrated at Spring Equinox around March 21 but now the United Nations has declared April 22 as the International Mother Earth Day. This day is celebrated worldwide with rallies, conferences, outdoor activities and service projects.

The idea for Earth Day was proposed by the presiding Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin in 1970, after seeing the damage done by a 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He was inspired to educate the public about the environment. The event that started as a grassroots movement, Earth Day got an excellent response and support from public thereby creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and this further contributed to the forming of Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act and Endangered Species Act. Nelson recruited Denis Hayes, a politically active recent graduate of Stanford University, as national coordinator, and persuaded U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey of California to be co-chairman. With a staff of 85, they were able to rally 20 million people across the United States on April 20, 1970. Universities held protests, and people gathered in public areas to talk about the environment and find ways to defend the planet.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom for being the founder of Earth Day which is the highest honor given to civilians in the United States. Earth Day continued to grow over the years. In 1990, it went global, and 200 million people in 141 countries participated in the event, according to the Earth Day Network.

Today, most cities in India are facing severe water shortage. The weather conditions seem to have changed tremendously. There is drought in certain areas of the country. All this is because we have been abusing the natural resources. The trees have been stripped off to make way for raising multi-storied buildings. Tons of wood are being used at the cremation ground in turn reducing the forest and the green environment. The fumes emanating from the petrol and diesel being used in the cars are causing pollution in the environment. Every second person today owns a car. In fact, families of four working people own four vehicles. Each member has different office timing and the location is also different so they are forced to own their personal vehicle to make life easy. However, there is a solution to this! People may start car pool system. Four to five people working in the same vicinity can get together and travel in one car. This will reduce pollution to some extent. The woods being used at the cremation ground can be avoided by using the electric crematoriums.

Efforts are surely being made to reduce the extent of abusing the environment but probably it might take some time for each and every person to initiate this effort. The initiative however, must carry on. Even if each person can contribute a little toward the cause, very soon we would be living in a better world.

Karuna Singh, Earth Day Network Country Director India said, “Our endeavor this year will be for a green India”. She also asserted “We’ve announced an inter-media school competition across India for the best short videos on the Earth Day theme. The National Council of Science Museums centre in eastern India will conduct a competition for students to develop gadgets that would run on renewable energies.”

Singh also highlighted another interesting feature, which is the launch of the second volume of eBook ‘Pathways to Green Cities: Innovative Ideas from Urban India’ that manifests strategies used in different cities to make their cities more sustainable with better resources, transport management, cleaner energies and reduced pollution. This eBook features recycling and up-cycling that involves turning waste materials/products into better quality products.

In different states and cities, people are organising various events to educate those who are either ignorant, unaware or being unconcerned about the importance of saving the natural resources and  paving a better place and future for our children. As per some newspaper reports, people in Chennai have taken up the task of cleaning the streets, whereas in Pune, Maharashtra, people have started to plant trees. NGO’s in Srinagar have decided to work with the administrators to regulate traffic. So the enthusiasm seems to have spread like wild fire this year. The Mantra is that each one of us should encourage people to do at least one thing on Earth Day. Before preaching to others we must first practice and take it from there.

Sheeba Peters’, a resident of Ammuguda, Secunderabad, Telangana State has recycled 21 items available in her home to make her garden look absolutely wonderful. She has used plastic bottles, broken electric bulbs, electric tube lights, car tyres, cracked crockery, broken wash basin and many more items. To mark the Earth Day Peters’ had addressed a group from the Sainikpuri Ladies Club in Brig. M. K. Rao Memorial Hall about recycling unwanted items at home. She also gave the group tips on how to save water. Peters’ effort may have been a drop in the ocean but if all the ladies present at the occasion, put in some effort from their end, the outcome can be splendid.

To mark Earth Day, Apple’s premium resellers have launched a recycling scheme under which customers can recycle their old electronic items and get a discount of up to Rs 1,000 on  accessories.

Goethe-Zentrum Institute in Hyderabad is contributing to this effort by hosting it’s annaual Earth Day open-house programme. The programme is free of cost and open to all. It includes lectures, workshops, film screenings and the ever-popular Eco-Bazaar that brings together like-minded people in their endeavor for the preservation of the environment in a spirit of goodwill and warm friendship.

An Earth Day Anthem has been created by an Indian Poet-diplomat Abhay Kumar. This Anthem has been termed by UNESCO as creative and inspiring thought that would contribute to bringing the world together. Kumar’s Earth Anthem has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, Hindi and Nepali. This Anthem was launched in June 2013 on the occasion of the World Environment Day by Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor, Union Ministers of India at a function organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in New Delhi.

The Earth Day Anthem

Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
all the continents and the oceans of the world                       download
united we stand as flora and fauna
united we stand as species of one earth
black, brown, white, different colours
we are humans, the earth is our home.

Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
all the people and the nations of the world
all for one and one for all
united we unfurl the blue marble flag
black, brown, white, different colours
we are humans, the earth is our home.

The idea of Earth Day is about appreciating and understanding the uniqueness of our planet Earth and its incredible biodiversity. We have to figure out ways to protect our nature which includes plants, animals and environment.

Pix from Net.