Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Earth Days of Service

April 22nd marks the 39th anniversary of the first Earth Day, the green teach-in and landmark event that jump-started the modern environmental movement, giving birth to the EPA, a raft of environmental legislation--Endangered Species Act and new versions of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts---and a host of eco-nonprofits, like the Wilderness Society and Friends of the Earth.

Earth Day is important in my household. My career was forged in the fire of that first Earth Day, inspired by the news reports I was reading at the time as a seventh grader (I organized a litter clean-up for the park in the center of town.) My wife and I later met while both helping create Philadelphia’s 1990 celebration, when 120,000 revelers gathered in the city’s biggest park. So my life’s work comes from Earth Day 1970 and my family courtesy of the 1990 edition.

So it is without any attempt at objectivity that I make the following bold prediction: as environmental issues, pardon the pun, heat up, Earth Day will soon emerge as the first truly global secular holiday. One day, kids will have off for school on Earth Day.

And like Martin Luther King Day, it morphs into a service-oriented celebration, people gathering to plant trees, clear invasives, clean streams, rivers and beaches, spruce up parks, and more. And that service lasts a whole month—April sees the concept of an Earth Days of Service gathering steam.

In fact, the environmental groups of the Delaware Valley have begun placing their service-oriented events on the web site of the Greater Philadelphia Environmental Network. If you go to www.gpen.org, you’ll see tons of Earth Day events for people across the region to join in, the Conservancy proudly standing with the Delaware Riverkeeper and Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.

You can help the Schuylkill Center restore its trails, pull tires from the Perkiomen Creek, help start a wildflower meadow on Cobbs Creek, and remove Japanese knotweed from the Remington Road retention basin. Suddenly, greening the earth was never so much fun.

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and with green-collar jobs and the green economy emerging as major stories—and one solution to the catastrophic economic collapse—expect to see the green holiday kicked up a couple of notches next year.

As for my group, the Lower Merion Conservancy, please do visit the Children’s Earth Day Forest on the weekend of April 25-26. As always, hundreds of students will have hand-built a Pennsylvania forest overflowing with artistic renditions of the plants and animals that live here: owls and opossums, deer and dragonflies, flowers and foxes.

So join me for a uniquely upbeat celebration of Earth Day or join any one of a million groups in the outdoors sometime this spring. And happy Earth Day.

Oh, and check out the guy in the 1970 photo above-- RIP, 1990, his sign reads. They honestly thought then we had only 20 years left before the Earth died....

...Which is eerily reminiscent of what people are saying today...

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