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Cities join in Earth Day festivities.

Official Earth Day celebrations are taking place in communities around the world this week.

Earth Day, April 22, provokes multiple tree plantings, neighborhood cleanups and environmental workshops in addition to one-of-a-kind events like the "7th Annual All Species Parade" and giant puppet pageant in Kansas City, Mo.

Working With The Earth

The 1993 Earth Day theme is "Working With the Earth--Honoring Indigenous Peoples." The theme is a spin-off of the United Nations' designation of 1993 as "The International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples." Indigenous peoples are defined as encompassing 4,000 to 5,000 cultures around the world, including between 200 and 600 million people in the U.S.

"Honoring Indigenous Peoples" says Earth Day USA President Bruce Anderson, "means recognizing and honoring those that first worked and lived with the earth and Listening with respect to the earth ethic of their traditional heritage."

Consequently, many of the national events, coordinated by Earth Day USA, pay tribute to the heritage of Native Americans. Council Circles, a Native American tradition, will be held this week across the country.

Council Circles are designed to give every participant in the circle an opportunity to express their deepest concerns about the earth and to listen to the concerns of other members of the circle. The Council Circles involve interaction between non-Native American citizens and Native Americans to not only discuss earth issues but to offer a cultural exchange as well.

Councils will be held from Key West, Fla. to the far north of Anchorage, Alaska and from the far west at Haleakala National Park in Hawaii, and along the San Francisco Bay to the Atlantic Ocean shore in Boston. Councils will take place in New York City skyscrapers, in Houston's Astro Park, aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach Harbor and one of the largest Council Circles will take place on the Winnebego Reservation in Nebraska.

The Expanding Meaning of Earth Day

Today, Earth Day issues are expansive, involving every aspect of life on Earth from the air to the water to the trees. The purpose of the April 22 Celebration is to encourage communities around the globe to develop strategies and take action to save the earth.

Throughout the year, communities can reduce air pollution by simply changing driving habits. By planning ahead and organizing trips, motorists can save on the amount of miles traveled and reduce air pollution. Of course, ride sharing has received a big push in recent years and is cost effective and environmentally conscious.

Recycling, too, is becoming commonplace for the environmentally aware community. Citizens are encouraged to throw away less, such as plastic containers which can be recycled and reused. As consumers become more and more recycling conscious and selective in the items they purchase, the recycling industry will grow and environmental standards will be heightened. Governments are encourage to stimulate their communities to create volunteer recycling programs and involve local schools and colleges, churches, unions and community service organizations.

Regional and local EPA offices offer a host of consumer tips that local-elected officials can distribute in their communities to produce the environmental effects Earth Day was designed for.

Urban Forestry

Out of the Earth Day movement, terms like urban forestry and urban forestry management took hold as buzz words in communities seeking to build environmentally safe neighborhoods and downtowns. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service provides financial assistance to local governments through states and other resources directly to cities.

According to the Forest Service a desirable urban environment includes an abundance of trees. Trees impact human lives as well as wildlife and are essential to survival. Statistics show a disturbing pattern involving a faster pace of tree destruction over tree planting and growth. To counter this, cities and towns across the country are learning that trees are as important in urban planning and development as architectural designs and blueprints.

Now, more cities are including trees, flowers and shrubbery planting in the design of buildings and structures. The Forest Service plays a major role in the rebuilding efforts in Los Angeles and has designed a full scale plan to help the city with its urban forestry management efforts.

The State of Missouri Department of Conservation has made great strides in encouraging cities and towns to become more tree conscious and planning active. Earlier this month 13 Missouri cities were honored because of their efforts to improve the appearances of their communities and raise the level of environmental safety with trees.

According the Forest Service, strategically placed trees can be as effective as other energy saving home improvements, such as insulation and the installation of weather-tight windows and doors. Trees can actually reduce heating and cooling costs. Trees also conserve water and reduce soil erosion, help modify the local climate and increase economic stability.

Communities are caught up in a creative spirit to give strength to international efforts to improve the quality of life on earth. Hundreds of events in cities and towns have been planned for the big day through Earth Day USA.

What's Happening In Some Cities

For Los Angeles, this year's Earth Day theme involves a spirit of healing and rebuilding put into motion by the largest single coordinated cleanup effort, called the Great L.A. Clean-up. The grand cleaning includes urban, beach and under water cleanups, graffiti paint-outs, tree plantings, habitat restorations, fairs, festivals, healing meditations and prayer vigils and eco-home tours.

Atlanta, Ga. teamed up baseball with wildlife when the Atlanta Braves and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service sponsored an Earth Day Expo last week. Baton Rouge, La. held an "Environmental Jambalaya" -- a mixture of festivals, concerts, cleanups, wildlife preservation, wetland conservation, emission testing initiatives and recycling activities.

Chicago calls its Earth Day activities "Something for Everybody" and includes a walkathons, cultural concerts and festivals, an EarthArts program and an Eco-Rap Competition. In Washington, D.C. the EPA and Earth Day USA will host a number of activities including an Earth Day festival for kids and a Bike to Work Day.

How Earth Day Came To Be

While on a conservation speaking tour in 1969, then Senator Gaylord Nelson first thought of the idea of an Earth Day. In the Spring of 1970 the first Earth Day celebration was held in Washington, D.C.

Three months after the first April 22 celebration, President Nixon sent Congress a proposal to consolidate major pollution control programs and in December 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA came into existence.

Twenty years later, the idea of Earth Day had caught on so monumentally that some 200 million people in 3,600 communities in the United States and 135 countries on each of the seven continents participated in the 1990 20th anniversary events.

Senator Nelson called the first Earth Day "an astonishing grassroots explosion." Those words still stand today. He said, "The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political arena.

It was a gamble but it worked."
COPYRIGHT 1993 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on the establishment of Earth Day
Author:Baker, Denise
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 19, 1993
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