Bet you didn't know that the day after Earth Day was World Book and Copyright Day - here's the UNESCO page in its honor. But that's already yesterday's news. Today, you have your choice: either celebrate Global Youth Service Day or - if you're an Armenian (or a Turk with a guilty conscience) - the Day of Mourning and Commemoration, marking the massacre of Armenians in Anatolia close to a century ago.
But before all of the above, there was Arbor Day, begun in 1872. Given the name of this blog, naturally I assumed that the last Friday in April was Arbor Day everywhere. So culturally imperialistic of me. It is celebrated in most - but not all - American states today. The good people at the Arbor Day Foundation have provided an interactive map showing the dates where people plant trees as a public service throughout the world.
I have nothing against Earth Day. If my chronological memory is right, I was an active participant in the very first Earth Day in 1970, as a high school senior in Ecology class, then a brand new and cutting edge course. At the time, I was torn between preparing for a tree-planting life in the US Forest Service and a forest-destroying life of writing memos in the US Foreign Service. I chose the latter, but have tried to make the most of paperless technology... by writing a blog!
Seriously, people actively marking Arbor Day are doing something, however individually small, for the good of the planet. I daresay that much of the pious hype about Earth Day two long days ago was just that, as the eternally relevant Russell Baker said of the same event almost twenty years ago:
For or against Earth Day? What difference does it make? A few hours after Earth Day is over there will be something new, a New Thing, demanding everyone's attention.
The always ravenous media maw will insist upon it and public-relations people, who know how quickly we tire of yesterday's fantastic event, will create it for us: a brand new New Thing, rich in photo ops and feel-good potential.
Russell Baker, curmudgeonly critic of the NYT Editorial Page, was writing during the days of the Bush I succession to the Reagan feel-good era. During the Dark Age of the Bush II ("W") succession, there indeed was a going-through-the-motions marking of Earth Day, by an emasculated Environmental Protection Agency that would have made the EPA of its founder (Richard Nixon!) want to change its name. Compare the sparse Bush Administration site "EarthDay.gov" (significantly, last updated January 17, 2009, i.e., pre-inauguration) to the re-born EPA Earth Day page under President Obama.
In my Ecology Class days with Mr. Klavon (I was so loyal to him that I joined the HS wrestling team which he coached; my commitment to ecology has been longer lasting), we had a wider appreciation of the dangers of pollution in all its forms, even if we lacked a proper understanding of the overarching threat of CO2 and global warming. Air pollution was to be fought (later, as a headhunter, I recruited "sanitary engineers" who installed smokestack "scrubbers" to filter out the dirty particles), but we were more concerned with the visible, smellable, and audible kinds of pollution.
This year I didn't plant any trees, but my wife and I did perform a semi-public service to our condo neighbors by going into the wooded lot in back of our building and filling two big trash bags with assorted junk. In the US, civic-minded Scout troops, Rotary Clubs, and communities can "adopt" a road that their fellow citizens (plus maybe a few foreign tourists and "illegal aliens") have littered. That's the way of the world. Some people plant trees, others consume them.
Earth Day is every day. Today, it's "Happy Arbor Day!" But that doesn't stop you from doing that good civic/environmental deed tomorrow, or the day after...
(Image from AppleWorks Clip Art)