What is Earth Day? Looking back at 1994

by Carolyn Chase
arth Day provides an annual occasion for acknowledgement, reflection and awareness. In addition, Earth Day provides an important and inspiring "call to action." Each and every human can discover that they can do their part for a cleaner, healthy and more prosperous future.
Q: What do people do for Earth Day and how does it work?
A: People choose what they think is most important in their area and then go out and do it!
At the national level, Earth Day USA collects event information and ideas and coordinates requests for information and referrals around the country. Nationwide, 400 different individuals and organizations reported that more than 625,000 individuals took action for Earth Day this year. All 50 states participated. Events included fairs and festivals, clean-ups, and walk-a-thons, concerts and plantings, "earth pledges" and "earth art."
President Clinton gave an Earth Day speech and reported on environmental progress at his home: The White House. "We're trying to do our part," he said. "We're using less water on the lawn, fewer pesticides, and Hillary and Chelsea and I have recycling bins in our kitchen."

Earth Day California-style

Here in San Diego, the fifth anual EarthFair in Balboa Park was an unqualified success. The fact that at it was pouring rain at 5am in the morning had organizers concerned, but the skys cleared (mostly) and the show went on. The Children's Earth Parade, supporting the theme "bring Earth Day Home," featured 400 marchers. More than 40,000 turned out on the damp and windy day to visit a record 279 exhibitors. The fair was produced by more than 350 hard-working volunteers.
At nearby Anza-Borrego State Park, far-out frogs, furry animals, and snakes were the order of the day.
San Bernardino hosted Nature Bowl ''94 as part of their "Live Green for Life!" Inland Environmental Expo.
Mother Nature was not as kind to our friends to the north. Berkeley Earth Day was rained out completely. San Jose was also rained on, but everyone was able to move indoors. The Earth Pledge Walk in Sausalito was "beautiful, if not well attended." Those who did turn out enjoyed getting exercise, being out in nature, and gathering to the sounds of Native American flute and drums. The next day in Contra Costa, the skies cleared up for thousands of attendees.
Los Angeles hosted The Great LA Clean Up. More than 31,000 people collected 11,398 pounds of trash, planted 2,372 plants, and removed 3 miles of graffiti. Organizer John Quigley reported having "the most challenging and inspiring day" of his life. LA also reported 22 worship events, 19 studies and forums, 17 church recycling projects and 10 clean up and restoration projects.

Around the U.S.

The Boston Area Earth Day Calendar invited people to more than 50 different fairs, cleanups, concerts, lectures and plantings. More than 2,500 individual promises were collected to form a "Promise Tree" in the South Station Metro.
Chicago hosted a Earth Day Walk 'n Roll Festival with 50 exhibitors and a walk-a-thon. The People's Earth Day took place on the southeast side known as the "toxic donut" and focused on environmental justice. Over 10,000 youth enjoyed "Enviro-Mania" at the Chicago Children's Museum. An estimated 10,000 in 250 locations did clean-ups with Friends of the Parks.
The Arkansas Solar Tour, featuring solar-powered cars from Michigan, Tennessee and Texas, visited and educated 25,000 school kids. The practical hands-on road testing made the technology real to science teachers and chambers of commerce throughout the State of Arkansas. The tour culminated at an Earth Day Festival in Little Rock where the Sierra Club presented an award to the State Attorney General. Bill Ball, Solar Friendship Tour organizer is working on a National Solar Jamboree for next year and is hoping that President Clinton will "Act Locally" by coming home for Earth Day and giving his Earth Day speech to solar car teams from around nation.
The "Taste of Health" and "Tropic Hunt" in Miami was well attended (30-40,000) until a long-lasting tropical downpour wrapped things up early. A downpour also brought things to an early close in Tampa.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana hosted "Earth for Children" featuring hands-on activities for children presented by 60 local teachers. More than 700 marched in their All-Species Parade and other well-attended events included a Recycle Store, the EarthWalk and an International Festival.
Organizers in Austin, Texas presented "The Earth's Cleanest Concert" for 7,000 attendees and 120 vendors.
Earth Day Arizona hosted events over 2 weekends for more than 50,000 people.
In Washington, D.C., awards were presented to local environmental justice heroes and METNET held an Ecothon with 100 exhibitors.
Earth Day Hawaii welcomed about 20,000 on Oahu.
Denver had a Fair, walk-a-thon and their first All Species Parade. At the end, only 18 pieces of litter were found.
New York hosted a Walk 'n Roll, a jazz concert and a Latin concert.
New Jersey Earth Day had their first walk-a-thon in a local park.
St. Louis held their 5th annual community festival and RiverFaces parade.
Richmond, Virginia celebrated the "Year of the Animal."

Putting it all together

What is going on here?
Nothing but the power, diversity, and magic of Earth Day. The power is in the idea. The people bring the diversity. Combined with their inspiration and community needs, this produces the largest annual, count-on-able, practical demonstration of action in favor of creating a better, healthier world.
Everyone can play a part in it. Everyone can be a part of it. Anywhere and everywhere.
Learn how to get started putting your own ideas to work. Earth Day USA offers a concise, 18-page "Earth Day Organizer's Manual" containing network resources, suggestions and grass-roots-tested ideas. Send $10 or a 9"x12" self-addressed stampd envelope with $1.44 postage for each copy requested to: Earth Day Organizer's Manual, PO Box 9827, San Diego, CA 92169.

Carolyn Chase is Executive Director of San Diego Earth Day and Chief Operating Officer of the Earth Day Network, the national Earth Day organization.