Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22. This year marks the 46th such celebration of the world around us. The first one, which took place in 1970, was marked by a rally in Chicago and several other cities. Twenty years later, in 1990, Earth Day went international, with estimates ranging from 100 million to 200 million participating across the globe.
This year, Earth Day falls next Friday, April 22, with the theme, “Trees for the Earth.” According to the Earth Day Network, trees will be the first of five major goals they are undertaking in honor of the five-year countdown to Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. The concept is to plant 7.8 billion trees by the 50th Earth Day in 2020 — or one tree for every person on the planet. According to the Earth Day Network, there are three major reasons that trees are a key focal point being undertaken:
(1) Trees help combat climate change, by absorbing excess carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. In fact, in a single year, an acre of mature trees absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide produced by driving the average car 26,000 miles.
(2) Trees help us breathe clean air, by absorbing odors and pollutant gases (such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone), and filter particulates out of the air.
(3) Trees help communities achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability, and provide food, energy and income.
The planting of trees is not a novel concept. Many nations and religions celebrate foliage annually. For example, some aspect of Arbor Day is celebrated in more than 40 nations, having originated in Spain in 1594. In Florida, Arbor Day is the third Friday in January, and closely coincides with the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which is celebrated as an ecological awareness day. National Arbor Day is celebrated the last Friday in April, or a week after Earth Day this year.
While trees are the focus, Earth Day also recognizes environmental advances that have been made, and the past 12 months have seen some extraordinary ecological activity. Most notably last December, when 196 nations signed the historic Paris Agreement, the pact that commits virtually every government across the globe to work together in an attempt to limit climate change and stem the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions. Locally, just last month, the Florida Senate’s Appropriations Committee killed a bill that would have stopped towns from banning fracking — a move celebrated by environmentalists across the state.
Locally, there are a number of events taking place in honor of Earth Day.
On Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Okeeheelee Nature Center (7715 Forest Hill Blvd.) will host its annual Earth Day Celebration. This free, family-friendly event features eco-activities, eco-friendly vendors and exhibitors, guest speakers, nature walks, and activities for children including crafts and face painting. There will also be live music. Food and drinks will be available on-site for purchase. Visit www.pbcparks.com/nature for more info.
Wellington hosts its annual Earth Day & Arbor Day Celebration on Sunday, April 17, from 4 to 7 p.m., at the Wellington Amphitheater (12100 W. Forest Hill Blvd.). The celebration features live music, presentations by local vendors showcasing earth-friendly products, free seedlings and wildflower seeds, face painting, a coloring mural and a visit from Smokey the Bear. The event will also include a demonstration of proper tree pruning techniques and a free raffle for a tree in a 15-gallon container. This year, the Wellington Village Council will be planting a paradise tree in honor of Arbor Day. For more information, visit www.wellingtonfl.gov.
So, plant a tree… or two. And have a happy Earth Day all year long!