Volume XI, Issue 16 ~ April 17-23, 2003

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For Earth Day, Celebrate, Activate, Educate
Or just step back for another perspective
by M.L. Faunce

Remember terrariums? Those collections of miniature plants encased in plastic or glass were popular back in the ’70s. My mother had a picture-perfect Lilliputian garden sitting on the table in a huge brandy snifter. The humid micro-climate kept intact by a closed lid recycled condensation, the only needed moisture. Light and warmth supplied the only other ingredients required for the tiny indoor landscape to thrive. Not a bad concept for a time marked by oil shortages and the world’s first Earth Day.

Back then, I knew a politician from Alaska who came up with the provocative notion of enclosing Mt. McKinley (the resort village, not the 20,000-foot mountain) in a glass dome that would enable year-round environmentally friendly use. He was serious, but maybe he had read too much Buckminster Fuller (or Buck Rogers). Fuller held the patent for the geodesic dome home, an idea as utopian as it was energy saving.

We can’t all live in geodesic domes or even glass houses (though famed architect Phillip Johnson did). We can’t easily build human-scaled terrariums with protective seals. No matter how dicey their current state, world affairs are part of a global village. That’s perhaps why Margaret Mead deemed Earth Day “the only completely international holiday that the world has ever known.”

The first Earth Day was born out of the time of “teach-ins,” those anti-Vietnam War grassroots demonstrations that ultimately gave rise to other issues, including concern over the environment. Earlier, Rachel Carson’s provocative novel Silent Spring focused on the disastrous effects of chemicals — including the deadly DDT — on Earth’s habitat. President John F. Kennedy’s 11-state conservation tour is also said to have helped plant the seed for the first Earth Day.

Back then, we talked a lot about renewable energy. Wind power, solar power, pedal power were everyday topics. Nowadays, bulky SUVs have replaced fuel-efficiency consciousness, and talk of alternative energy sources is as scarce as a baby boomer’s 401K profits — though the White House did recently install solar panels, if only to help heat the presidential pool and spa.

I didn’t intend to write a political commentary, though it does seem we’ve supersized everything on this good earth but support for alternative energy sources. We can’t even decide exactly when to celebrate Earth Day, the day intended to deepen our sense of unity and foster responsibility for the protection and care of the earth. You know: Celebrate, activate, educate.

Some believe Earth Day should be celebrated on the March Equinox, the first day of spring, when light and darkness are of equal length worldwide, as the sun sets on the South Pole and rises on the North Pole. That’s when the United Nations celebrates this global event.

For the rest of us, April 22 is the day adopted, the anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, which was billed as “a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment with everyone invited to participate.” Some now say it doesn’t matter when you celebrate. Choose any day, say your own birthday, to plant a tree or clean your yard.

Maybe in our global disarray, we need another perspective to rededicate ourselves to Mother Earth. I like to think of the words an astronaut used looking back at earth from space: “So peaceful, so wonderful, so fragile.”


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Last updated April 17, 2003 @ 1:5apm