Earth Day celebrated across nation

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   Despite the ongoing crisis in Iraq and current economic hard times, people all across the nation took time out of their busy lives on Tuesday to recognize Earth Day and consider ways they can help to improve the environment.
   This year marked the 33rd anniversary of the occasion, which was founded in 1970 by then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, according to the Earth Day Network, an organization which serves to coordinate environmental awareness efforts related to Earth Day around the world.
   Nelson proposed the first nationwide environmental protest to force the issue into the national agenda, according to information on the Earth Day Network web site (www.earthday.net), and on April 22 of 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy and sustainable environment.
   Nelson was later awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given to a civilian, for his role as the Earth Day founder, according to the web site.
   In 1990, after 20 years of being observed in the United States, Earth Day went global as 200 million people in 141 countries mobilized to bring environmental issues onto the world stage, according to the Earth Day Network.
   President George W. Bush spoke to reporters at the White House on Tuesday about Earth Day and the affect it has had on this nation. "Earth Day encourages and celebrates countless acts of stewardship by individuals that improve the quality of our communities, parks, rivers, lakes, and private and public lands," Bush said. "The government also has an important role to play in protecting our environment.
   "Three decades after the first Earth Day, our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our lands and natural resources are better protected," he said.
   On the local level, students and faculty at East Tennessee State University took time out of their day on Tuesday to participate in a wide variety of events to celebrate the special day. As a part of the festivities, students from a nearby elementary school made their way to the ETSU campus where they learned about the art of tye dyeing, recycling, planting and the importance of caring for the environment.
   For the adult crowd, students participated in an open mike performance, playing music and reading poetry or stories. One student read the Dr. Suess classic "The Lorax", while another read three poems he had written about the war in Iraq.
   ETSU student Dean Cheek, who read some of his original poetry, said he felt the performance portion of the Earth Day celebration was a good forum for people to speak about important issues, adding that he feels that people need to become more knowledgeable about the environment and ways to protect it.
   "I think people need to be more aware of clean energy, safer products and being environmentally friendly," he said.
   Another ETSU student, Lettee Harris, said she feels that celebrating Earth Day is an important activity. "It's important because we all have to live here. It's important to take care of the Earth because it's all we've got," she said. "The most important thing to remember is that we all need to share this piece of land we're on."
   Participants of the Earth Day celebration were also treated to musical performances and even an "Eco Fashion Show" and an "Eco Friendly Lunch".รค
   Along the celebration grounds, booths with information about environmentally safe products, environmental organizations, a voter registration drive and even a plant sale lined the sidewalks. Several guest speakers presented lectures on topics from how to "live gently" on Earth to conservation to the survivability of aquatic ecosystems.