The first Earth Day in 1970
is regarded as the beginning of the environmental
movement. Congress closed for the day so that legislators
could participate in teach-ins and clean-ups. In a
symbolic act, a student group buried a car. Millions of
people participated in one way or another. Legislation
such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were longer
term outcomes of the first Earth Day. Twenty years later,
1990, Earth Day was resurrected,
and people around the world have been honoring April 22nd
each year since then.
Locally, Earth Day has become an
annual celebration marked by the All Species Parade
followed by a rally with speakers, entertainment and
informational tables. After 10 years in downtown Traverse
City, this year we are moving the gathering to the
Shielding Tree Nature Center to be in a more natural
setting and to bring attention to Shielding Tree's new
home in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
What's the big deal about Earth Day
anyway? Why go to all the trouble of planning such an
The most obvious answer is that
Earth Day serves to raise awareness about the many
environmental issues that need our attention. From needed
legislative initiatives to demanding that responsible
parties clean up toxic waste sites, Earth Day is used to
rally support and encourage collective action.
Earth Day is also a chance to
highlight past environmental successes. It's important to
recognize the progress we have made in improving the
environment. It is also a time to gather as a community
to celebrate the diversity of life. We need to remember
what it is we are trying to save. Locally, and in other
cities, the All Species Parade is a fun and creative
reminder that we share this planet with many other
beings. This year, in addition to an All Species
Processional around the farm at Shielding Tree we will
conduct a Council of All Beings. This is a ceremony which
offers us a chance to speak from the perspective of
another species about the condition of the
I feel that the most important
reason to celebrate Earth Day is to use this day as a
public demonstration of concern for the environment.
Whether we clean up a beach or a wetland, whether we
dress up as another species, or gather to listen to
speakers and music, by showing up we are demonstrating
our interest and concern for the condition of the planet.
On a Saturday in April when leaves need to be raked,
screens put on windows, and cars washed, and all the
other demands of our busy lives, we put all that aside
and we say, with our presence at the Earth Day
Celebration, "This is the most important thing that I
could do today."
See you there.