In a Word. . . Earth

It’s a day to do something kind for Mother Earth: plant a tree, recycle, pick up litter

"Ground control to Major Tom, Ground Control to Major Tom . . . For here/Am I sitting in a tin can/ Far above the world/Planet Earth is blue/And there's nothing I can do . . ."

But there is!

David Bowie wrote those Space Oddity lyrics in 1969, the same year we saw our first earth rise thanks to the men of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. We realised what a beautiful blue planet this is.

Today we celebrate that planet, for it is Earth Day 2017, which is marked in over 193 countries on April 22nd every year. With climate change denial now a dominant outlook in the White House, it is more pertinent than ever that we mark Earth Day.

Indeed it was an American politician who began Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, it was founded by Democrat senator Gaylord Nelson to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.

The first Earth Day celebrations took place in 2,000 colleges and universities and approximately 10,000 primary and secondary schools across the US, as well in hundreds of communities there.

Raising awareness

By 1990 Earth Day involved 200 million people in 141 countries raising environmental awareness at an international level.

In 1995 then US president Bill Clinton awarded the late (died in 2005) Senator Nelson the presidential medal of freedom (highest honour given to US civilians) for his role as Earth Day 2017 founder. To date there are no moves by the Trump presidency to undo that decision.

One of Senator Nelson’s better-known quotes was that “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, not the other way around”. It’s good to be reminded of that.

It’s a day when people do something beautiful for Earth: plant a tree, pick up rubbish, encourage recycling. Others sign petitions calling on governments for stronger measures to stop global warming and to reverse ongoing environmental destruction.

It's a day to be kind to Mother Earth in the sure and certain knowledge that without her we would be as nothing. Of Earth we are and to Earth we shall return. Over to you.

Earth from Old English eorþe , ground, soil, dry land. Also used for the (material) world (as opposed to the heavens or the underworld).

inaword@irishtimes.com