For most people, Earth Day has replaced Arbor Day as the day dedicated to reminding us that how we live and take care of our terrestrial home matters.
At first glance, there is no difference between the two: Both are days set aside for events to remind us to take care of Earth.
But there is one huge difference, and I think it deserves mentioning: Arbor Day, April 28, is for doing, for planting trees, for carrying a shovel. Earth Day, April 22, to too many people, is a day for talking, for hanging out in public, for carrying signs.
Fortunately, our Benton County residents chose an Arbor Day approach, gathering to learn about nature, and to clear the bike trails in Vinton. That’s what Earth Day, or Arbor Day, should be.
Throughout the U.S., there were, however, a lot more people carrying signs than carrying shovels.
Exercising their First Amendment right to free speech, people filled streets and city plazas, complaining about specific policies, although I bet nobody protested the previous presidential administration’s huge increase in tariffs on solar panels. Yeah, it happened. Look it up.
The problem with Earth Day, as a philosophy, is that it leads only to talking — or in one event I covered in another county 15 years ago — sitting in a park, strumming a guitar in front of a sign that reads “Earth is our Mother.”
It’s been that way on Earth Day, since its beginning in 1970. Take a look at the photo from the Washington Mall in 1970, the very first Earth Day. Taken by an AP photographer, this picture was printed in several publications. People talked about pollution. They sang about the environment, and their love for Mother Earth and each other. And they left behind truckloads of garbage. The late ABC Commentator Paul Harvey once said that the amount of garbage left behind could have filled dozens of railroad cars.
National Geographic was one of the publications to print that photo. “Litter-filled parks partly negated the previous days message,” the magazine declared in a historical review of Earth Day.
“This is sadly the reality of too many environmental activists,” artist Pablo Solomon told NG in an interview.
Solomon, who attended Earth Day events in Houston in 1970, expressed his frustration with many of the protesters.
“The crowds again are often people looking for something to do or have an axe to grind on some other issue. People should practice what they preach,” he said then.
Some of us are saying so now.
If you protested on Earth Day, good for you. There’s much about our nation’s attitude toward energy and environment that needs a good chewing out.
But Earth Day is over, now. Arbor Day is coming. Practice what you preach, as the artist said. Put down that sign and go find a shovel.