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Celebrating Earth Day

By Way Yu

When was the last time you stopped and smelled the roses? Canít remember? April 22nd is the perfect day to do just that.

April 22, otherwise known as Earth Day, has been nationally recognized as a day to celebrate and save the planet. Events and activities are planned to make people aware that the environment has been suffering from harmful effects created by man. Pollution of the air and water, destruction of rain forests and parks, and the extinction of some species are just a few of those problems. Itís more important than ever to fix, save and protect what we can if we want to continue to enjoy nature.

Earth Day began back in 1970, when Wisconsinís then-Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the first nationwide environmental protest. Its aim was to "shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda." Led by David Hayes, Nelsonís coordinator, more than 20 million people joined in the peaceful, organized protest. People from all walks of life--rich, poor, doctors, lawyers, teachers, children and more--came together to call the worldís attention to environmental issues. It was a resounding success, culminating in the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

In 1990, Earth Day became global. Now, over 200 million people from 141 countries join in yearly to renew the fight to save our earth. Though itís moved from a grassroots campaign to one organized by professionally-established environmental organizations, everyone is encouraged to pitch in. Donít be surprised if you go to the grocery store and see paper bags emblazoned with "Save the Earth" logos--thatís the work of children involved in the Earth Day Groceries Project.

What can you do to celebrate this day?

  • Join or Volunteer at a Local Event. Plenty of activities are held during the month of April to raise awareness. Most communities plan extra festivals and events on the week of, and weekends before and after Earth Day. In Maryland, 500 Atlantic White Cedar trees will be planted to create the largest AWC forest in the Western Hemisphere. A street fair in North Carolina will be generated in part by water and solar energy. Check out ads and listings in your local newspaper, or go to www.earthday.net to see whatís going on in your area.
  • Discover Nature. The best way to see Mother Natureís glory is to head to the nearest beach or national park. Take a hike, or go camping under the stars. Youíll remember what the fuss of Earth Day is all about.
  • Recycle. Round up all of your empty soda cans and drop them off at your local recycling center (most are located in large supermarket parking lots). Not only will you be cleaning up and doing a good deed for the environment, you get paid for what you bring in to recycle!
  • Use your Green Thumb. Seeds are cheap and can be purchased at your local supermarket, nursery, or even drugstore. Take your pick (daisies or green beans?), put on some gardening gloves, and start a garden in your backyard. Donít have a plot of dirt to plant your seeds? Nurseries and select craft stores will have gardening pails and troughs filled with soil, ready for indoor planting. You can place it on your windowsill or just a sunny area of your room.
  • Walk or Bike instead of Drive. Leave that car at home--cars emit harmful gases that destroy the ozone layer and add to air pollution. Try rollerblading, riding a scooter, or biking to your class or office. Depending on where you live, thatís easier said than done. This is a no-brainer for those in Manhattan, but what if you live in Los Angeles, where driving is a way of life? If you canít get to your destination by bike or by foot, try another form of transportation: subway, bus, or even carpooling.
  • Save Energy. Even if you donít live in California, Earth Day is a terrific opportunity to brush up on your energy conservation skills. Switch off the television when youíre not in the room. Wash the dishes by hand instead of running the dishwasher. Hereís a biggie: shutdown your computer at night. And finally, turn off the lights when youíre not in the room. If it gets too dark, light candles. Not only are you saving energy, but the glow from the candles will give your room a more romantic feel too.
  • Get Political. As a beachgoer, the pollution of the oceans may be your biggest concern. Or you may find logging inexcusable because it kills trees and threatens animal life. Write a letter to Washington D.C. about the need to pass laws to save the planet. Address those issues you feel most strongly about, and let your voice be heard. After all, you and your descendants will be the ones inheriting the earth.

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