Scientists estimate Earth to be about 4.5 billion years old and yet today (April 22, 2012) marks just the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, which obviously means that we have a few billion years of neglect to overcome.
Rectifying such an oversight with an annual observance is a noble gesture, but it seems much of the general public has yet to totally embrace the concept. In fact, most people know very little about Earth Day’s history or true purpose.
By American standards, Earth Day is certainly not a traditional holiday. There’s no time-off from work or school, for one thing; and the typical excesses connected with such festivities seem counter-intuitive to appreciating our exhausted Earth. Decorations, fireworks, holiday spending sprees, even feasts appear wildly inappropriate.
There’s also no jolly elf, magic bunny, winged cherub, or leprechaun to sell the story of Earth Day to our kids. And, what exactly is the story of Earth Day? Shouldn’t it have some sort of folk-tale or myth to explain its creation and convey its true meaning—something to build our traditions around?
The real story of Earth Day involves student activism in the 1960’s, the city of San Francisco, a maverick U.S. senator, and a “luminary with a major passion for peace, religion and science.” It also contains a small measure of controversy.
There are actually two dates officially recognized as “Earth Day.” Two men are credited with creating separate Earth Days at approximately the same time, and their unique, competing visions of the same concern both shaped the sentiments and practices commonly associated with the event held today.
John McConnell (1915- ) is an intriguing, American character—a New Age, Christian peacenik with traces of counter-culture bohemian marbling his earthy righteousness. He developed a concern for ecology while working for an early plastics laboratory (1939). During WWII, McConnell delivered religious services aboard Merchant Marine vessels, taking the position that “prayer and love could be more powerful than bombs.” Since then, McConnell has dedicated his life to “relieving human suffering and promoting the common good.”
McConnell’s philanthropic activities, which included the highly successful “Meals for Millions” campaign, eventually led him to the 1969 National UNESCO conference in San Francisco. It was in this historic city, named for St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, that McConnell unveiled his idea for an “Earth Day—to celebrate Earth’s life and beauty and to alert earthlings to the need for preserving and renewing the threatened ecological balances upon which all life on Earth depends.”
McConnell proposed Earth Day to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which eventually issued an “Earth Day Proclamation.” McConnell drafted his own Earth Day Proclamation for worldwide use which quickly gained the support of the United Nations, and the initial event was celebrated in San Francisco (and other cities) on March 21, 1970.
If there is a spiritual element to how we view or celebrate Earth Day, it most certainly originates from McConnell. In his interesting (and visionary) essay, 77 Theses, McConnell outlines a path toward a utopian global village where citizens serve as “Trustees of the Earth.” He combines religious sensibilities with an idealistic faith in humanity’s ability to liberate itself from its seemingly unenlightened existence. While acknowledging tremendous challenges, he suggests a possibility for redemption by embracing an “inner point of unity”—a collective concern for the Earth and each other. “The greatest challenge in history,” he writes, “is the present challenge of destiny involving all humanity; a challenge to reclaim the Earth for all peoples and to free them from the fear of war and want.”
Clearly, Earth Day’s overriding sense of community, inclusiveness and shared responsibility for the well-being of the planet comes largely from McConnell’s passionate vision, but what about the other guy?
Gaylord Nelson was known as The Man from Clear Lake. He was a U.S. senator from Wisconsin at a time (1963-81) when being a Democrat with liberal leanings wasn’t considered such a bad thing. Born in 1916, he fought in WW II and served as the 35th governor of his home state before becoming a senator. He was largely responsible for side-effect warnings on birth control pills (“Nelson Pill Hearings”), in addition to being a strong advocate for small business and, of course, initiating his own Earth Day.
He was said to have been motivated to create an “environmental teach-in at university campuses” after witnessing the devastating effects of a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. The original concept was shaped in a large part by the protest movement blazing across college campuses throughout the turbulent 60’s. Nelson, considered a conservation activist, envisioned an event similar to the highly effective Vietnam War teach-ins going on at that time.
“I am convinced,” he said, “that all we need to do to bring an overwhelming insistence of the new generation that we stem the tide of environmental disaster is to present the facts clearly and dramatically.”
Nelson announced his intentions at a couple of 1969 speeches including a meeting of the United Auto Workers (which donated $2000 to the cause!). He invited Republican representative, Pete McCloskey, to serve as the co-chair of a non-profit organization, Environmental Teach-In, Inc., and a front-page article in the New York Times (September 29, 1969) declared, “Rising concern about the ‘environmental crisis’ is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam.”
Nelson recruited a Harvard graduate student, Denis Hayes, to organize their first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) on a nationwide scale. Nelson claims the name “Earth Day” was suggested by “a number of people,” but whether intentionally lifted from McConnell or not, the mass media preferred it to “Environmental Teach-In Day.” Hayes, who became an influential leader in the environmental movement, did an excellent job as approximately 20 million Americans participated in this first Earth Day, and it has been called “the beginning of the modern environmental movement.”
Nelson receives credit for using his government muscle to increase Earth Day’s visibility across the United States. He made public education, awareness and youth involvement key elements in the Earth Day Movement. Nelson’s outline for Earth Day also suggests a 60’s-style “stick it to the man” kind of militant edge, or a “We’re not going to take it!” reaction to environmental concerns. His Earth Day certainly contains a solid streak of social activism.
Both of these pioneering environmentalists contributed equal measures toward the establishment of not just an Earth Day, but an Earth Day Movement; and both should be simultaneously acknowledged for their efforts. Nelson’s approach, strongly rooted to democratic principles of free speech and public assembly, compliments nicely with McConnell’s ideas about mankind’s collective discovery of the inner point of unity.
So, what’s the deal with the dates? Nelson carefully selected his date to maximize collegiate involvement. With spring break, Easter and any other holidays out of the way, most universities would be in session. McConnell chose his date to coincide with the March Equinox, calling it “nature’s special day of equilibrium.” His motivation was once again a unification of public interest and concern. By choosing the vernal Equinox, when the length of night and day is equal in all parts of the Earth, McConnell hoped to show “no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another.”
While McConnell’s choice undoubtedly makes more sense symbolically, Nelson’s political clout made the April date stick. Many still prefer to observe the more metaphysically-aligned “Equinox Earth Day” instead.
So, now that we know the story, have we gained a better understanding of what comprises a proper Earth Day? Should we go all “Age of Aquarius” and act like we’re in the Broadway musical Hair? Should we attend a protest march or a lecture? Perhaps we should think more practically and organize a nature walk with neighborhood kids, or maybe a clean-up crew?
Whether it’s March 21 or April 22, we’re still talking about spring, and that’s the traditional time to bust out the dust-brooms, shake off the winter lethargy and start cleaning things up. Lunchsense would like to mark the occasion by reminding everyone that “Reduce” comes first, even before “Reuse” and “Recycle,” so how about celebrating Earth Day by clearing out some of your old, unused stuff? Why not spend the afternoon making your own little part of Earth a cleaner, happier place? Simplify your life and for the good of the planet, keep only what you need. Start becoming an environmental activist in your own home.
Here’s Walter Cronkite’s 1970 commentary on the event … Happy Earth Day!
For Immediate Release
February 29, 2012
Lunchsense Creator to Appear at NW Women’s Show
Seattle native, mother of three and D.I.Y. entrepreneur, Nancy Owen Myers will be “changing the way people think about lunch” at this weekend’s NW Women’s Show.
Eugene, Ore. – For many working women (and men), lunch has become more of a nuisance than a nourishing noontime respite. Options are limited; time is short; fast-food is bad. But, that doesn’t have to mean another cup of coffee and a breath mint—Nancy Owen Myers has designed a lunchbox that’s so easy to use, it practically packs itself!
Myers will be demonstrating and discussing Lunchsense, her intuitive, cleverly conceived creation, at Seattle’s annual NW Women’s Show, held at CenturyLink Event Center, March 2-4.
An Eco-Accessory with a Side Salad
Lunchsense lunchboxes are durable, reusable, reduce waste, and they do it all with infectious style. In addition to their remarkable usefulness, Myers is promoting their smart, attention-grabbing appearance at this weekend’s event. “Lunchsense is more than food luggage,” Myers relates, “Our boxes are eco-accessories that compliment everyone.” Purpose and personality converge in the Lunchsense look to create a simple statement of sensibility. While her primary interest is improving lunch-packing, Myers has designed a box that comfortably kicks around a cafeteria with a clutch of kinders, or sachets from the shoulder of a business exec.
Business Model by Mom
Lunchsense typifies a refreshing trend seen among many web-based, Mom/Pop businesses—a modern, values-driven ethic. Focused from the start on innovative thinking, the impulse that launched Lunchsense and Myers’ overriding principle has been—there’s got to be a better way! “Healthy, easy and cool” became the framework for Myers’ product design, but her concern for social and environmental responsibility created a business that’s determined to inspire positive change.
An opinionated businesswoman and articulate spokeswoman for her product and the lifestyle it represents, Myers is available for interviews and product demonstrations at the NW Women’s Show. Lunchsense products have been featured in The Washington Post, The Oregonian, The Eugene Register-Guard, and in the new book “Vegan Lunch Box around the World.” Myers has also appeared on the cover of Mom Magazine. Media inquiries can be made at 541-515-0089.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Lunchsense offers a line of durable, machine-washable lunchboxes that are designed with both kids and adults in mind. Each lunchbox folds out into a placemat and comes complete with dishwasher-safe food containers, ice pack and drink bottle, and all pieces are free of BPA, lead, phthalates and vinyl. Available in three sizes and eight colors, Lunchsense lunchboxes are designed around the containers, ensuring a perfect fit. Lunchsense has received the Green America Seal of Approval and a STELLA Service “star.” For more information, visit www.lunchsense.com.
Contact: Nancy Owen Myers, (541) 515-0089, email@example.com; Chris Naugle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, my United States Postal Service. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I seriously do love the USPS, and although it’s a little embarrassing, and I occasionally feel a bit coy about this affection, it’s high time I step forth and proclaim it.
I run an internet-based business, which means I spend (as do all the rest of the internet businesses, from me up to Amazon.com) a very large chunk of my time and attention into the logistics of getting your order from my warehouse to your doorstep. After we select and fill the appropriate carton with the ordered items, we all have to consider the need for packing materials; the size; the weight; the distance to travel; the desired speed of travel; whether the recipient will be present when the order arrives, and what to do if he/she is not; whether to insure the shipment; how to track the shipment; what to do if it doesn’t arrive. It’s really pretty breathtaking, when you think about it, what goes on between that “click here to complete your order” and finding a box on your doorstep.
The USPS has been going through a rough patch lately, I know, and if it’s been difficult to understand why, I’ll try to summarize the issues, which were also mentioned here. You might have heard that the PO is looking squarely at an almost $10 billion deficit. It has come about in part because of the drop in First Class mail service thanks to the increasing popularity of online bill-paying services, the weakened economy, and competition among package delivery services. However, some of that deficit is the result of a 2006 law that required the Postal Service to prepay retiree health benefits. It is the only agency, public or private, that has been required to do so at this level – the Postal Service was required to prepay 75 years of health care coverage in 10 years’ time. Further, the USPS overpaid the pension obligations from 1972 to 2009 and has requested (but not received) a refund on their overpayment. Their deficit would become a $1.5 billion surplus if these issues would corrected; Congress is looking at bills to address them. In the meantime we face the prospect of slower service, shuttered facilities, and thousands of layoffs.
I find this heartbreaking.
So: why do I love them?
First and foremost, they are the green team of shipping.
Think about it – the postal carrier comes to your address just about every day anyway, yes? Remember that the other services have to make a special trip to deliver your package. Besides that obvious green advantage, here are a few more:
As if that’s not enough, some other things you may not have known about them:
They hire more veterans than any other civilian employer: 135,800 of their 570,000+ person workforce, according the the American Postal Workers Union.
It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the US Constitution, and does not receive a cent of tax money – all its operations are funded by the revenues it generates. It is also obligated to deliver to every single U.S. Postal address, and in many rural areas the post office is the de facto community center.
Only the items shipped via the US Postal Service have federal law enforcement protection. If you are leery of online monetary transactions and banking, there’s no safer way to deliver your personal checks.
Their annual food drive, “Stamp Out Hunger,” surpassed 1 billion lbs. of food collected in 2010 after 18 years of this annual event. Held every year on the second Saturday in May (May 12 this year) it has become a major source of non-perishables for food banks across the country.
Personally, I like the US Postal Service because I like their website better than the website of those guys in brown shorts.
And the postal carriers are the underrated masters of navigation in your neighborhood. If I’m ever in a new part of town and I’m lost, or I’m unable to find a business or a house, or if I want to find the homes for sale in a particular neighborhood, or I want to know where I can get a cup of coffee, or my gas tank is about to hit empty, I KNOW that I can ask the postal carrier and he or she will set me straight, every single time.
How can you help remedy the sorry situation the Postal Service finds itself?
First of all, use the postal service to ship packages when you can. For cross-country shipping they may be a day or two slower than the other guys for the standard, every day, ground shipping option (parcel post in USPS parlance) but you’ll probably find they are cheaper in many cases. If you’re shipping within about a 500 mile radius, you might even find the faster service (Priority Mail) is cheaper, not to mention faster than the other ground services, and their flat-rate cartons are free!
Second, buy your postage online. Besides the fact that you’ll avoid the lines at the P.O., you’ll get a bit of a discount. What’s more, it’s really easy, and even kind of thrilling to see postage come out of the printer. Even though you’ve paid for it, it feels a bit like printing money, or at least what I think printing money would feel like if I did that. The down side of printing your postage is that you may get cold stares from the unfortunates that are waiting in line at the P.O. when you breeze past them to the counter and drop off your packages.
Third, contact your congressional representative and let them know that you do care to keep the Postal Service operating at its current level of service.
So, in honor of the mighty men and women in blue stripey shirts and black socks with shorts and whatnot, I’m offering free shipping all the time to orders of $80.00 or more. That’s two lunchboxes, in most cases (for two smalls you’d have to throw in a couple extra food containers, which is usually a good idea anyway – have one at work, have one in the dishwasher). It’s the least I can do to keep those fine men and women going!
The bustling staff at Lunchsense world headquarters is a proud, yet mostly humble group. The truth is, we get a little squeamish about blowing our own horn, so—it’s always nice when someone else decides to tell more folks how helpful our lunchboxes can be.
HouseSmartsTV.com is primarily a home-improvement site run by Chicagoland’s “Mr. Fix-It,” Lou Manfredini. They also occasionally produce cooking or lifestyle pieces, and they recently featured Lunchsense in a video about healthy, environmentally-conscious, noontime-meal solutions. Hooray!
Check it out, pass it on and above all else—enjoy your lunch!
I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not the Greenest person in the world. Wait! Before you strap me to the back of a wild orca, or string me up a Redwood tree, hear me out—please. I’m not that bad. I haven’t cashed any kickbacks from ExxonMobil or Dow. I recycle, I carpool, and I (usually) walk my boys to and from school each day. I live in Eugene, Oregon for goodness’ sake, a haven for organic, natural fiber, tree-hugging types. You can get publicly flogged for tossing compostable foods into a trash can here. So what’s my environmental atrocity? I’m a stay-at-home-dad who needs to prepare two reasonably healthy lunches every weekday morning before 8 a.m., and I’m not a morning person.
Still doesn’t sound so deplorable? Well, it started years ago while I was working evening shifts at a local newspaper. I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep, and it slowly became harder and harder to perform my morning chores as a walking, slit-eyed zombie. My wife would wake the boys and set them up with a cereal/oatmeal/bagel-type breakfast before placing a cup of strong, black coffee on my night-table, shoving me (hard) and slingshot-ing herself off to work. I would often stay in bed until the last possible second when I would force myself upright, slurp down one, then two cups of java and frantically prepare my sons for school. In this weakest of possible conditions, I abandoned good sense and succumbed—to individually packaged, grab-and-go food items. Yes, I really should have known better, but (please forgive me) my boys just gobbled those fruit cups, yogurt tubes and energy bars right up. The worst part? I don’t work the night-job anymore, yet I still (occasionally) ignore my want-to-be-Green conscience and opt for convenience. This is an inexcusable exercise in poor judgment, but there are no two ways about it—“it’s not that easy being Green.”
In 2008, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions produced 250 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), commonly referred to as “trash.” This amounts to about 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day. We recycled and composted 83 million of the 250 million tons. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that residential waste (you and me) accounted for 55-65% of the total MSW generation. Containers and packaging made up nearly 31% of the 250 million tons. Only two manmade structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill.
So, should I hang my head and skulk around with a Scarlet Letter sewn to my guilty conscience? Yes, in all honesty I probably should, but we at Lunchsense like to view the Green Movement as just that—a movement; a progression from a toxic, yellowish-neon shade to the deepest emerald hue. Clearly, you can’t plot me on this Green graph next to Ed Begley Jr., but by recognizing and addressing my own waste problem, I am heading his way. Rather than dodging the Green Police and fretting over whether I’m “Green” or not, I’m simply accepting the continuum and trying to become Green-er. Now (thanks to Nancy), I utilize reusable containers much more frequently, and I also buy bulk when I can. There are a number of tasty items available in this under-appreciated section of the supermarket. And remember–you can buy as much or as little as you need. Ask yourself how you can limit the amount of waste you produce each day and share your own confessions/suggestions with us. By increasing our awareness and making the most of our Lunchsense, we can all grow Greener each day.