Earth Day – the Key to a Future For Our Planet.
“EARTH DAY celebrates the
deep-seated and persistent desire of populations around the globe for peace
and harmony, which have been disrupted over the
years by misguided leaders but never by the people themselves."
The coming of the New Millennium may impel us to examine what remains to be done to improve the quality of life for individuals all over the world. The past need not be prologue. At the closing of the last millennium, 999 A. D., Europe had become poor and backward. There was no maintenance of cities and roads had fallen into ruin. By our standards, life for most Europeans was unimaginably mean, dirty and unhealthy. The impact on Europe of the Fall of the Roman Empire, five centuries earlier, proved to almost wipe out civilization.
Great achievements have come to pass in the 1900’s. The advances in science and technology have revealed to us that the Earth needs special attention.
Nobel Laureate Harold Urey, stated, "We in the older generation have begun to realize the immense changes on the Earth in our lifetime. Due to trains and airlines, we can travel quickly to all parts of the Earth. Due to atomic bombs people all over the earth are in danger. Due to the success of information and medicine we face the possibility of an overpopulated Earth. All of these things are of great concern to all of us. It is time we began to think in terms of a unified Earth. One of the best ways, it seems to me, is to celebrate EARTH DAY, on March 20, 1977 as well as in all the years to come. In this way the people of the Earth can dedicate themselves to understanding these facts, and to intelligently act on them." (From Nobel Laureate Statements supporting Earth Day – United Nations, 1977.)
EARTH DAY – to be a universal holiday -- to celebrate the natural wonders of our planet was first proposed by John McConnell in early October 1969 to Peter Tamaras, who headed the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Tamaras requested John McConnell to write an EARTH DAY PROCLAMATION. John McConnell wrote a Proclamation and presented it to the Mayor of San Francisco, Joseph L. Alioto. On March 1, 1970, Mayor Alioto issued that Proclamation as the Earth Day Proclamation for San Francisco.
In 1970 the celebration in California included the raising of the Earth Flag in Golden Gate Park. The Park provided seedlings, which were delivered by the Red Cross to schools in the San Francisco area. The Sierra Club, Jr. Chamber of Commerce, colleges, and grade schools participated with special programs and celebration.
Fortuitously, in November 1969, John McConnell had the opportunity to present the concept of EARTH DAY at UNESCO’S NATIONAL CONFERENCE: MAN AND HIS ENVIRONMENT. It was well received. At a later date UNESCO became a major sponsor of the annual EARTHDAY CELEBRATIONS at the United Nations.
The date and the place for the celebration of the first EARTH DAY is notable because the Vernal Equinox occurs on March 21st. This is the time every year when the Sun crosses the equator – resulting in a 12 hour day and a 12 hour night (equal length) in all the earth. The place, San Francisco, so named for St. Francis, the patron saint of ecology, is also the birthplace of the United Nations.
Margaret Mead said, "EARTH DAY uses one of humanity’s great discoveries, the discovery of anniversaries by which, throughout time, human beings have kept their sorrows and their joys, their victories, their revelations and their obligations alive, for re-celebration and re-dedication another year, another decade, another century another eon. EARTH DAY reminds the people of the world of the need for continuing care which is vital to Earth’s safety. …EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way; using the vernal equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible.
“The vernal equinox calls on all mankind to recognize and respect Earth’s beautiful systems of balance, between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, birds in the air, mankind, water, air, and land. Most importantly there must always be awareness of the actions by people that can disturb this precious balance.”
John McConnell contacted UN Secretary General U Thant in late 1970 and obtained his support for making Earth Day a global holiday -- to be celebrated each year on the March Equinox; the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
EARTH DAY HISTORY
The earliest recorded history of the people of many diverse cultures celebrated the beginning of Spring at the time of the equinox. Approximately three thousand years ago men built Stonehenge using enormous stones that were arranged to measure the first moment of the Vernal Equinox. Spring is the renewal of life. The understanding of the vernal equinox, the beginning of Spring, leads people to comprehend the full meaning of EARTH DAY.
The Hebrew calendar, the old English legal calendar, and many other societies in the northern hemisphere celebrated the March Equinox as the beginning of the new year. The prefixes SEPTember, OCTober, NOVember and DECember stand for the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th; that would make January and February the 11th and 12th months of the year, and as a result, MARCH the first month! There are many Asiatic nations around the Caspian Sea that continue to celebrate MARCH 21 as the first day of the year.
The vernal equinox calls on all mankind to recognize and respect Earth’s beautiful systems of balance, between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, birds in the air, human life, water, air, and land. There must always be awareness of the fragility of these systems and the danger of upsetting the balance by abuse.
PEACE BELL RINGS IN 1971
A highlight of the annual EARTH DAY ceremony at the United Nations is the ringing of the Peace Bell. The Peace Bell was a gift from Japan. It was made from coins given by school children to further peace on our planet. On Earth Day the Peace Bell is rung at the moment of Spring.
On the sounding of the Peace Bell at the EARTH DAY celebration of March 21, 1971 U Thant, Secretary General of the United Nations, called on people of all creeds and cultures to observe a few moments of silence, to take time to consider their role in the nurturing of Earth and their commitment to its care.
After the ringing of the bell, he said, “Mankind’s eternal aspirations for good instead of evil, for peace, instead of war, have reached world wide dimensions during this century. At long last the concept of EARTH DAY, of world patriotism and of the family of man, have come into being. May there only be peaceful and cheerful EARTH DAYS to come for our beautiful space ship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."
In February 1971, Secretary General U Thant signed the Earth Day Proclamation written in June 1970 by John McConnell. (UN Release, text and a view of the document are further below)
PEACE BELL CEREMONY IN 1972
Kurt Waldheim, Secretary General of the United Nations, rang the Peace Bell at the ceremony observing EARTH DAY March 21, 1972. This was part of a unique 12 hour national television broadcast from Channel 9 in New York. Harry Pearson, Newsday Environment Writer, reported this was a landmark in the annals of Television Journalism. He wrote that executives of WOR TV said they believed the public was not sufficiently aware of the environmental crisis and working cooperatively in league with the United Nations they began, at 6 AM on International Earth Day, the most comprehensive and intellectualized look at the environment Pearson was aware of being seen on American television.
EARTH DAY CEREMONY CONTINUES EACH YEAR
The United Nations EARTH DAY ceremony continues to be observed each year on the day of the March equinox (20th or 21st), with the ringing of the U. N. Peace Bell at the very moment of the equinox. In 1975 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution and President Ford proclaimed the observance of Earth Day on the March Equinox.
Earth Day is celebrated in many countries. The celebration of Earth Day is a fine demonstration of global community. For example, on Earth Day in 1987 when the Peace Bell was rung by representatives of three different cultures and religions: A Presbyterian, Chester Morris – from the United States Mission to the United Nations, an atheist, Valentine Karymov – from the USSR Mission to the United Nations, and Sheik Ali Mukhtar – representing the Muslim World League.
The spirit of the Peace Bell was keenly presented when two children, Dasana Tenne of Israel and Nasser Obeid of Palestine, rang the Peace Bell in 1994.
The annual celebration of Earth Day in Vienna, Austria was aided in 1996 by the inauguration of a Peace Bell installed in Vienna’s United Nations Center. Accompanied by former UN Sec. Gen. Kurt Waldheim, John McConnell rang the bell – which had been provided by Japan, and said, “…the purpose of Earth Day is to make people feel the importance of being Earth Trustees.”
On EARTH DAY 1998, Cosmonaut Anatoli Berezevoi rang a Peace Bell in Moscow. The Mir Space Station joined in the observance – symbolizing the universality of the day.
The value of the March Equinox had been recognized in various ways throughout history. It was China’s ancient New Year and is still officially celebrated in Japan as “Spring Day.” Persia and other ancient cultures (including the Mayans in Mexico) designated the event for celebration. Today, Iran is a leading exponent of its meaning. Their New Year (Noruz) is the March Equinox and they have joined each year since 1980 in the United Nations Earth Day Ceremony.
It has become a tradition to have the ringing of the Peace Bell followed by two minutes of silence, which could be used by each person to avow their devotion to peace.
Nature has provided the equinox, a billion year symbol of unity and balance. A united effort by all people on this yearly occasion of nature’s equipoise can stimulate more thought and action to foster global unity of mind and purpose.
Are not dates other than the March Equinox also celebrated as “Earth Day”?
Yes. The chief example of this has been the April 22 Earth Day. While many groups have called April 22 and other dates Earth Day and used them to further sound environmental efforts and education, calling them Earth Day causes confusion. The goal they pursue – environmental education and action, can best accomplish their purpose by events that complement and do not detract from the equinox Earth Day.
The history and the nature of Earth Day on the Equinox provides a key to a future all can share. Special days to help the environment can occur at any time. They can all contribute to our common cause and common effort – the rejuvenation of Earth.
President Anwar Sadat of Egypt called Earth Day on the March Equinox, “The Great Day of Planet Earth.”
One appropriate great day for Planet Earth can bind hearts and minds in a common commitment to the stewardship of Earth. Earth Day’s original purpose is bound to the March Equinox.
EARTH SOCIETY FOUNDED
To strengthen the mission of Earth Day John McConnell and Margaret Mead established The Earth Society Foundation in 1976. The Foundation’s purposes are:
"Encouraging people of all races, creeds, and religions, nationalities and ideologies to become active participants in the preservation of the Earth’s natural resources.
“Seeking to redirect the energies of governments, industries, and individuals away from destruction, waste and pollution of the physical environment and toward the development of products and services which will protect, enhance and improve the condition of the Earth, on the land and sea, and thereby benefit all the citizens of all nations.
“Encourage and increase awareness of Earth life through the exposure to nature’s wonders and through individual silent reflection, meditation, or prayer – seeking attitudes, feelings, and conduct that will foster unity and cooperation in the love and care of Earth.
“Conduct educational programs and seminars and promote research and investigation throughout the world for the purpose of providing data to all individuals and institutions who are joining in the movement to promote and implement the Earth care ethic: namely, that the stewardship and care of earth requires action to produce and use materials and services that help nurture, conserve and recycle, without destructive pollution, the organisms and nutrients of Earth’s web of life. Coordinate or assist the work of like-minded organizations for the purposes of minimizing unnecessary duplication of energies and maximizing the impact and effectiveness of the earth care movement.”
These tasks have been taken up by many different groups world-wide and as acknowledgment of their dedication they are known as Earth Trustees.
From the earliest days of the founding of EARTH DAY John McConnell stated that any person who makes responsible choices in areas of ecology, economics and ethics is to be known as an Earth Trustee. Delineation of ecology, economics, and ethics as they relate to the Earth Trustees are:
ECOLOGY: Protection and nurture of Earth’s life and natural resources by Earth Care choices in buying, selling and giving that increase Earth’s natural equilibrium and diminishes pollution.
ECONOMICS: Action and programs that will provide all people, regardless of race, a stake in their planet – a secure homestead, stable money and fair credit.
ETHICS: An inner commitment – through daily prayer, meditation or by faithful reflection, to combine love of God with love of world neighbors and love of earth, and bring them all together each year on EARTH DAY, the celebration of the Equinox.
STATEMENT OF JOHN McCONNELL
Our beautiful planet Earth, filled with pain and suffering, capable of life, beauty and love, is being destroyed by ignorance, greed and waste.
The nurture and renewal of Earth is the most urgent task. Singly, and with the help of others, we must act as trustees. We must seek in our jobs, buying habits, travel, land use and other activities at home, work and play, to respect and protect Earth's amazing web of life -- its soil, water, air, plants and living creatures.
Every single person, and families, should have an opportunity for a stake in this planet, for a home, education and meaningful work; that in their area of responsibility, they should act, not as spoilers of Earth, but as caretakers.
Global acceptance of responsibility for protection and nurture of life on our amazing planet will bring new hope, health and prosperity for all earth’s people. We will continue the human quest for meaning and purpose in the Cosmos – ‘Why are we here and where are we going?’ We will seek answers to the enigmas of time and space. We will test hypotheses about creation and moral creeds by how much they inspire freedom and order, faith and love; all community interests.
A new day is dawning. Light is piercing our gloom. New life is stirring in our bones. We’re learning the meaning of love. We can, we will, now make of our planet a Garden of Eden…our home in space, a nest surrounded by beckoning stars.
CHILDREN LEARNING RESPONSIBILITY
The children of the world are learning to accept responsibility, to promote the growth of trees, flowers, food crops as well as to be on the alert for causes of pollution. Fred Burrous, who was with the Red Cross for many years, aided Earth Day from its inception. He believed the Earth Trustee program would be great for children and initiated a Young Earth Trustee program. He told children, "Do something: pick up trash, recycle, plant flowers, smile, and you will qualify as a Young Earth Trustee.”
Schools have initiated Young Earth Trustee programs. Middle School children in Bethel Connecticut participated in clean-up and recycling programs and then decided they wanted their town to be an Earth Trustee Town. They conducted an essay contest, “Why not Bethel.” And in 1999 the winner was sent with her family to attend the Earth Day ceremonies at the United Nations. As the Peace Bell at the United Nations was rung a Peace Bell in Bethel also rang. As has become the custom, two minutes of silence was observed following the ringing of the Bell.
The more Earth Trustees there are the more we can believe in the future. When enough people care for the Earth and trust each other we will have a healthy peaceful planet.
WHAT TO DO ON EARTH DAY
In answer to the question “What exactly are we supposed to do on Earth Day,” the following has been helpful to many: LOOKING AHEAD The more we act as Earth Trustees, the better we will know what to do on Earth Day. As Earth Trustees we will strive in our daily life to help “peace, justice and the care of Earth.” We will seek to make choices in our daily conduct that will foster harmony, lessen pollution, diminish waste and assist nature. (Walk more, ride less, buy less, grow some of your own food, recycle, plant a tree, etc.) Join some group that is helping to further these goals.
Then on Earth Day think about and talk about our wonderful planet – what you have done to help it and your plans for the coming year. To celebrate the wonder of this amazing planet you can join with others at your church, school or other group – with exhibits and speakers, and invigorate participation with music and entertainment.
Aware we are one human family, people from every creed and culture link hearts and minds in silent prayer or reflection for a minute or more around this special moment. Peace Bells at the United Nations and other places will be ringing -- reminding us the wonder of Spring is here.
Then when we have the first celebration of Spring and new life in the Year 2000 Earth Day, bells will ring all over the earth in the Equinox initiation of a new and better future for our planet!
UNITED NATIONS Press Release SG/1749 -- 26 February 1971
SECRETARY-GENERAL SIGNS EARTH DAY PROCLAMATION
The Secretary-General, U Thant, signed today an Earth Day Proclamation for the celebration of Earth Day on 21 March 1971 -- the vernal equinox, or first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
The observance of Earth Day was initiated last year by the City of San Francisco. The Proclamation has already been signed by a number of eminent personalities, including Col. Buzz Aldrin, United States astronaut; Luther H. Evans, former Director-General of the Untied Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Miss Margaret Mead, anthropologist; Miss Estelle Feldman, Chairman of the Commission on Man and Environment of the 1970 World Youth Assembly, and Chief S. O. Adebo, Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.
The Secretary-General has also agreed to issue a message in connection with the observance of Earth Day, and to attend a ceremony at United Nations Headquarters at which the Peace Bell will be rung. The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, 21 March (1900 Universal Time), in commemoration of the signing of the United Nations Charter at San Francisco.
The Text of the Earth Day Proclamation written by John McConnell in June 1970 is as follows:
Earth Day Proclamation
Whereas: Planet Earth is facing a grave crisis which only the people of Earth Can resolve, and the delicate balances of nature, essential for our survival, can only be saved through a global effort, involving all of us, and
Whereas: In our shortsightedness we have failed to make provisions for the poor, as well as the rich, to inherit the Earth, and our new enlightenment requires that the disinherited be given a just stake in the Earth and its future ~~ their enthusiastic cooperation is essential if we are to succeed in the great task of Earth renewal, and
Whereas: World equality in economics as well as politics would remove a basic cause of war, and neither Socialism, Communism nor Capitalism in their present forms have realized the potentials of Man for a just society, nor educated Man in the ways of peace and creative love, and
Whereas: Through voluntary action individuals can join with one another in building the Earth in harmony with nature, and promote support thereof by private and government agencies, and
Whereas: Individuals and groups may follow different methods and programmes in Earthkeeping and Earthbuilding, nevertheless by constant friendly communication with other groups and daily meditation on the meaning of peace and goodwill they will tend more and more to be creative, sensitive, experimental, and flexible in resolving differences with others, and
Whereas: An international EARTH DAY each year can provide a special time to draw people together in appreciation of their mutual home, Planet Earth, and bring a global feeling of community through realization of our deepening desire for life, freedom and love, and our mutual dependence on each other,
Be it Therefore Resolved: That each signer of this People Proclamation will seek to help change Man's terrible course toward catastrophe by searching for activities and projects which in the best judgment of the individual signer will:
~peacefully end the scourge of war…
~provide an opportunity for the children of the disinherited poor to obtain their rightful inheritance in the Earth…
~redirect the energies of industry and society from progress through products...to progress through harmony with Earth's natural systems for improving the quality of life…
That each signer will (his own conscience being his judge) measure his commitment by how much time and money he gives to these purposes, and realizing the great urgency of the task, he will give freely of his time and money to activities and programmes he believes will best further these Earth renewal purposes. (At least 9 percent of the world's present income is going to activities that support war and spread pollution. Ten percent can tip the balance for healthy peaceful progress.)
Furthermore, each signer will support and observe EARTH DAY on March 21st....(Vernal Equinox ~~ when night and day are equal throughout the Earth) with reflection and actions that encourage a new respect for Earth with its great potentials for fulfilling Man's highest dreams; and on this day will join at 19:00 Universal Time in a global EARTH HOUR ~~ a silent hour for peace....."
ORIGINAL SIGNERS OF THE EARTH DAY PROCLAMATION -- 1970-71
In the years between 1990-1996 more people had become aware of the observance of EARTH DAY; they wanted to be involved. They familiarized themselves with the EARTH DAY PROCLAMATION. To demonstrate their agreement with all the concerns and issues set forth they placed their signatures on the Proclamation joining that of the Secretary-General and those that had signed in the previous years; they are:
21. John Denver – Singer,
See the Earth Day Proclamation
AN EARTH TRUSTEE VISION
‘Where there is no vision
the people perish’
As we approach a new Millennium people are looking for a truly new approach to solving the problem of violence and the enigma of rags and riches in a world of abundance. We need a new vision that reflects awareness of the state of the world, its dangers and possibilities, and then to decide what to do about it.
For a new perspective, imagine, for a moment, a visitor to our planet. Aware of human history he would see the amazing accumulation of knowledge and know-how, the advancement of technology – and now the Information Super-Highway, which makes possible linkages that can serve both unity and diversity and foster peaceful progress.
Aware of our incredible raw materials and natural resources, he would wonder at the stupid poverty and pollution that covers our globe.
“Where there is no vision the people perish.” Our main problem is the lack of vision. Actions good or bad begin in the mind. The theme of the United Nations is “Peace Through Understanding.”
The idea that can best illuminate our understanding is recognition that we are all Trustees of Earth. We each have equal rights and responsibilities in regard to our planet. Our task is to seek in ecology, economics and ethics the choices that will encourage initiative, eliminate poverty and pollution, and provide a sustainable future.
There are two levels of effort needed. On the one hand, we must take emergency action to remedy problems using social structures as they presently exist. Many political and economic institutions are unfair and inefficient, but compromises are needed for emergency action. The hungry should be fed. The homeless housed. The worst case pollution addressed. At the same time, we must seek to restructure institutions with Earth Trustee goals and policies.
New solutions are being considered and tried in different parts of the world. Tree planting, composting, clean energy, Earth Villages (combining nature, electronics and the ‘Small is Beautiful’ concept) are other new initiatives that can implement the Earth Trustee agenda in the new Millennium.
One problem is that people’s choices are more often the product of their emotions than of their understanding. Passions of greed, fear, hate, lust and desire for power – as well as the influence of identity with ethnic history and its grievances – often result in choices that reject understanding and common sense. This ‘evil’ in society can be overcome by the power of love. The right role of religion in society is essential: (1) New emphasis must be given to the fact that most all religions teach the power of love and the importance of the Golden Rule. (2) There must be tolerance for people of different beliefs about the ultimate mysteries of life – who or what is God, life after death, other dimensions of reality (questions on which honest minds can differ).
Our need is to work together for what we agree is important – fair opportunity and care of people and planet – and allow room for differences on other matters. This policy will bring the best for each nation and neighborhood.
The Earth Trustee vision is a new and better way to the future and provides an agenda that will heal, nurture and prosper our planet.
The original Earth Day – on the Equinox, March 21, 1970 – gave birth to the Earth Trustee idea. Plan now what you and some group you belong to will do on Earth Day 2000 – and future Earth Days. Global attention and participation can make the new millennium an Earth Trustee Millennium of discovery and fulfillment.
EARTH DAY 2000
The event that can do the most to bring people together who are seeking a better tomorrow is the observance of the equinox on the Millennium Earth Day, which will occur at the United Nations in New York on March 20, 2000 at 2:35 a. m. Media in every country announce the local time when Spring or Fall will begin. The Earth Day Equinox is the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. At the same time, in the Southern Hemisphere they will observe the beginning of Fall – the time of Nature’s rest that complements Spring. Let people everywhere know this is Earth Day and the importance of this common event.
The local time of the equinox – which changes every year -- is always more convenient in some places than in others. In the year 2000 the area where the equinox will be at High Noon is Bombay, India. (12:05 p. m. March 20) Midnight Equinox will occur in the longitude of Mexico City on March 20 at 12:35 a. m.
Convenience in different time zones will vary. Those who believe strongly in the power of faith and the benefit of a global simultaneous convergence of personal commitments to Earth Trustee action will join with love and prayer around the equinox regardless of the time. The more understanding of Earth Day – the harmony of the Equinox and vision of Earth Trustee actions, the better the future will be for you and your planet. All that we need to achieve the rejuvenation of Earth is to have media and the global state of mind reflect the importance of the Equinox and its observance on Earth Day. Spread the word, and help make Earth Day “The Great Day of Earth!”