EARTH DAY
by
MARGARET MEAD


1978

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world."
Margaret Mead. Used by permission, Institute for Intercultural Studies.


EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.

EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way which is also the most ancient way using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth as seen from space appropriate.

The choice has been made of one of two Equinoxes, the springtime of one hemisphere, the autumn of the other, making the rhythmic relationship between the two capable of being shared by all the peoples of the Earth, translated into any language, marked on any calendar, destroying no historical calendar, yet transcending them all.

EARTH DAY begins with the striking of the Peace Bell at the United Nations, joined by gongs and bells ringing around the world.

Where men have fought over calendrical differences in the past and invested particular days like May Day or Christmas with desperate partisanship, invoking their God with enthusiasms which excluded others, the prayers for EARTH DAY are silence, where there is no confusion of tongues, and the peal of the peace bell ringing around the Earth, as now satellites transform distance into communication.

EARTH DAY celebrates the interdependence within the natural world of all living things, humanity's utter dependence upon Earth, man's only home, and in turn the vulnerability of this Earth of ours to the ravages of irresponsible technological exploitation. It celebrates our long past in which we have learned so much of the ways of the universe, and our long future, if only we apply what we know responsibly and wisely.

It celebrates the importance of the air and the oceans to life and to peace. On the blue and white wastes of the picture of Earth from space, there are no boundary lines except those made by water and mountains. Yet in this picture of the Earth, the harsh impersonal structures of world politik disappear; there are no zones of influences, political satellites, international blocs, only people who live in lands, on land, that they cherish.

EARTH DAY is a great idea, well founded in our present scientific knowledge, tied specifically to our solar universe. But the protection of the Earth is also a matter of day-to-day decisions, of how a field is to be fertilized, a dam built, a crop planted, how some technical process is to be used to enrich or deplete the soil. It is a matter of whether the conveniences of the moment are to override provision for our children's future.

All this involves decisions, some taken by individuals, some by national governments, some by multinational corporations, and some by the United Nations. Planetary housekeeping is not, as men's work has been said to be, just from sun to sun, but, as has been said, like women's work that is never done.

Earth Day lends itself to ceremony, to purple passages of glowing rhetoric, to a catch in the throat and a tear in the eye, easily evoked, but also too easily wiped away.

EARTH DAY uses one of humanity's great discoveries, the discovery of anniversaries by which, throughout time, human beings have kept their sorrows and their joys, their victories, their revelations and their obligations alive, for re-celebration and re-dedication another year, another decade, another century, another aeon.

But the noblest anniversary, devoted to the vastest enterprise now in our power, the preservation of this planet, could easily become an empty observance if our hearts are not in it.

EARTH DAY reminds the people of the world of the continuing care which is vital to Earth's safety.




Photo: 10/9/1968, Antony di Gesu.
© The San Diego Historical Society, http://www.sandiegohistory.org