Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is the "official" Earth Day in the USA and Canada. The late US Senator John McConnell first called for an international Earth Day at an UNESCO meeting in 1969, the same year as he designed the 'Earth Flag' pictured to the left. The original idea was that Earth Day was to be held on the Vernal Equinox (either March 21st or 22nd). The first Earth Day was held in San Francisco on March 21st, 1970, and on February 26th, 1971 then Secretary General of the UN, U Thant, signed a proclamation naming the Equinox as the official UN recognized Earth Day. Today this event is celebrated in over 175 countries. The official site for the international Earth Day is at the Earth Day Network.
In the USA there was a move to change the date of Earth Day to April 22nd. The main force behind this was another US Senator Gaylord Nelson. While the world marks Earth Day by ringing the peace bell in March Canada and the USA celebrate this event of concern for the environment in April. This shift is not unlike the way that International Labour Day has shifted from May 1st to September in these countries. Needless to say the change has provoked more than a little criticism. For some more polemical views go to the International Earth Day site.
A lot of the urge to move Earth Day from its more appropriate time came from a desire to have it coincide more closely with the American Arbor Day. See this for a history of this US holiday. April 22nd is the birthday of J. Sterling Morton, the Nebraskan founder of this holiday (in 1872). Today the holiday is usually observed on the last Friday of April in most states, but a number of states have set dates that are more consistent with the best time for tree planting, from January in the south to May in the far north.
The actual motivation of changing the date of Earth Day is pretty obvious ie to "Americanize" the holiday, but insanity springs eternal, especially in the USA. This patriotic move was criticized by some as a "commie plot". The "proof"...April 22nd, 1970 was the hundredth birthday of Lenin. The Daughters of the American Revolution were quoted as saying "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them". Why those dirty commies ! How sneaky and vile. This legend persists to this day in some of the wackier right wing quarters. The Young Republicans had a rejoiner to this plot. Their official Earth Day 2000 slogan was "Earth First ! We'll log Earth first, other planets later".
To return from the further reaches of the imagination- Earth Day today is still the occasion for demonstrations expressing concern about the environment, but it has become increasingly commercialized over the years, losing a lot of its original radical content. In the USA there is an official government site, that provides an entry to the planned events of tomorrow. Here in Canada further information can be found at the Earth Day Canada site. Tree planting are a common event here in Canada as well, imitating the American Arbor Day.
Locally the annual Walk for Mother Earth will begin at 1:00 pm at the Winnipeg City Hall. After an hour of yap yap by speakers the walk to the forks will begin at 2:00 pm where a water ceremony will be held by Garry Raven in the Odena Circle, followed by a free lunch. Later in the day, beginning at 5:00 pm, an Earth Day celebration and fund raiser for the Just Community Market and the Organic Food Council of Manitoba. It will take place at the Pyramid Cabaret at 176 Fort St. The Just Community Market is a marketing co-operative for locally produced food and other goods. For more information or to purchase tickets go to .

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