Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day


The 1960's were a decade of great change and intense social upheaval. It was marked by the untimely and violent deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. It was an era filled with simple but unforgettable music, strange yet exciting clothing, big hair, bigger earrings, taller shoes, shorter skirts and unforgettably wide bell bottom pants. It was the era of "Flower Power, Far Out and Feelin' Groovy" and there was someone, and something to watch...every where you looked.

I spent my teen years in the 1960's and I remember well the intense and dynamic activism and social awareness many of us experienced during that time. My college classes included categories like "Black Lit" and "Poetry of War". The "war" meant Vietnam and the topic of the 'draft' struck terror in all of our hearts. "What's your number?" was just as common as "What's your sign?" Your number meant your draft number and could signal the end to your college career, your hopes for the future, or even the end of your life.

Our "sign" was always the peace sign, above all else. You saw it everywhere, on everything. It was what we all wanted and what we prayed and lit candles for. Just as much as we cared for our rights, for human rights and for rights to either 'choice or life', we also cared ardently about environmental issues.

It was during the mid 1960s that Congress passed the Wilderness Act, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked, "Who speaks for the trees?" I remember reading in college Rachel Carsons, shocking bestseller Silent Spring (1962). I didn't read it 'just' to learn about environmental issues...it was assigned and mandatory classroom reading! I remember how much it pained me to think of the environmental damage we were so unwittingly creating... not only for ourselves, but our children and grandchildren for generations to come.

In was during the sixties, that Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, called for an environmental 'teach-in', or 'Earth Day' to be held on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people responding to increasing interest in environmental issues, participated that year, alone.

Today, April 22, is one of several recognized 'Earth Day's' and is celebrated by more than 500 million people and national governments in 175 countries. Senator Nelson, an avid environmental activist, may have taken a leading role in organizing that first celebration, but it is one that is taken up, on many levels, by many ages and groups, today. Seen as more of a 'grassroots' celebration by many, and even protested and disapproved of by others, it is still the the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year. Many cities extend the Earth Day celebration to an entire week, usually beginning on April 16, and ending on April 22. The unofficial Earth Day flag is the photo taken by NASA and submitted by John McConnell, shown above.

But according to 'Flags of the World' it is this ecology flag created by cartoonist Ron Cobb, published on Oct. 25, 1969 that is the Ecology Flag. Patterned after the U.S. flag with 13 stripes...alternating green and white. Its canton is green with a yellow Theta symbol. While originally sporting a symbol which combine an E...for environment and an O...for organism, it 'evolved' into the Greek alphabet letter for Theta. (Theta is historically used as a warning symbol.)

Whatever the symbol, the meaning or the intent, Earth Day remains a day of continued awareness, social and environmental responsibility and a continuing commitment to the stewardship of Earth as our home.

My family participated in Earth Day in Salem, this past weekend, as part of the Pringle Creek Community's Earth Day celebration. As 'green' builders, my family is proud to be the builder of the first LEED Platinum home in Oregon and the top-rated LEED-H Platinumn home in the U.S.

3 comments:

  1. We spent Earth Day holding an event at the Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center. We had a perfect night! The peepers were peeping and the sky was clear. I was also recycling the beer and wine bottles at 11 pm - couldn't stand the smell - didn't want to keep them overnight in my car!

    Green but tired!!

    doni in NE for 45 more days!

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  2. I well remember the events of which you speak, and the first Earth Day. I remember thinking then that we (our generation) were being handed the Earth and not feeling quite ready for stewardship of that magnitude. Ready or not, its still our duty... who knew that Earth Day, as such, would continue on 38 years later?!

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  3. Thanks to the blog owner. What a blog! nice idea.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.