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Earth Hour has passed but Earth Day is coming

April 4, 2014
By JOYCE COMINGORE ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I was so engrossed in the preparations for the Trafalgar Middle School's First Annual Taste of the Gardens last Saturday, I totally missed observing Earth Hour, and it means a lot to me.

Earth Day is a whole day, April 22 every year, set aside to bring about environmental awareness, but Earth Hour precedes it. Earth Hour is an important global event conducted by the World Wildlife Fund, to be celebrated the last Saturday of March each year. This is to help bring awareness for our climate change globally.

This year, everyone worldwide turned off their lights for one hour, 8:30-9:30 p.m., their local time, the world's tallest building in Dubai, the Empire State Building, Athen's Acropolis, Kremlin in Moscow, London's House of Parliament, Sydney's Opera House and the India Gate in New Delhi and all their cities. At the Vatican, before St. Peter's Basilica plunged into darkness, dozens of people shouted out a countdown, including a group of children dressed as Spider-Man, the first-ever superhero ambassador for the campaign. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" stars, Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone and Jamie Foxx, led the ceremonies in Singapore. In Paris, a 9-year-old "mini" Spider-Man kicked off the ceremonies, but the Eiffel Tower symbolizes the City of Light and visitors were still present, so, its spectacular dancing lights were idled for only a minute.

Chicago was designated as the U.S. Earth Day Capital. The United States' Earth Hour statement is that "Earth Hour is a simple idea that turned into a Global Phenomenon, with hundreds of millions of people coming together to display a commitment to protect the one thing that unites us all Our planet."

I usually turn off all my electrical appliances (except the refrigerator) and light candles all around my hot, steamy bubble bath, to soak and read for an hour. It's not hard to do, but this year I was tired and I missed it.

Earth Hour was launched in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, partnering with PayPall to allow donors to contribute to specific projects from Russia and India, Canada and Indonesia, using the Asian fund-raising site, Crowdonomic.

Earth Hour chief executive Andy Ridley said before the lights went out this year in Singapore, ''If you want to get real social change you need symbolism," noting that now they had moved beyond symbolism to concrete action.

As more than a billion people turned off their lights in symbolism, another 1.3 billion across the developing world will continue to live without electricity, as they do every night of the year.

The main focus of Earth Hour is to be aware of the energy level of the earth. By having people turn off all non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour in homes and businesses worldwide, it gives us a feeling of helping and increases our awareness of our energy crisis, helping to avoid unnecessary usage of our energies.

As for Earth Day, it started out being observed by the Unesco Conference on Environment in 1969 on the March Equinox, when the center of the sun is directly above the Earth's equator, but that date changes yearly. It also made it in the spring in the Northern hemisphere and fall in the Southern hemisphere. Now it is observed on April 22 every year as set by its founder, Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. It started as an environmental teach-in that the press called "Earth Day" observance.

In the '60s, Sen. Nelson had been disturbed by the lack of environmental awareness that made it a non-issue in the politics of our country. He tried getting President Kennedy to give it visibility by going on a national conservation tour in 1963. That didn't help. By 1969, he decided, since the people were aware of and wanted environmental issues met, he would go from the bottom up, not top down. He and his office organized nationwide environmental "teach-ins." Earth Day worked because of the spontaneous response at grassroots level. "It organized itself." This success helped persuade the U.S. politicians that environmental legislation had a large and substantial power base.

The first Earth Day was started April 22, 1970. By 1990, Earth Day was an international event. In 1972, Supreme Court Justice Wm. O. Douglas had written a dissenting opinion in a landmark environmental law case stating that rocks and trees and water and sky had rights: "The voice of the inanimate object should not be stilled."

In the last few days, I've been hearing about global warming. Even though we have had a severe winter, the average temperature of the world is rising, posing a grave threat to our future generations, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science declared the world is already feeling the effects of global warming. The window for effective action is swiftly closing.

Do you know how much energy you save when you recycle one aluminum can? You save enough money to watch TV for 3 hours, the equivalent to half a gallon of gasoline. Never underestimate the importance of recycling: if every newspaper was recycled, we could save about 250,000 trees each year. Unfortunately, only 27 percent of all American newspapers are recycled. More than 20,000,000 Hersey Kisses are unwrapped each day, using 133 miles of tinfoil. Foil is recyclable, but not many do it. Only 11 percent of the earth's surface is used to grow food. The first wildlife refuge was formed on Pelican Island Florida in 1903.

A highlight of the annual Earth Day ceremony at the United Nations is the ringing of the Peace Bell given to the UN by Japan. It is made from coins given by school children to further peace on our planet.

Ben Franklin said, "When the well's dry, we know the value of water." Let's not wait until our environment is ruined and it's too late to fix it.

Does Earth Day really matter? It does if WE care.

Remember to thank a tree for our fresh air.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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