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    Earth Day brings together what matters

    “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
    There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
    There is society where none intrudes,
    By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
    I love not Man the less, but Nature more”

    Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage 

    “We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features . . . the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.” 

     —Henry David Thoreau, Walden 

    When, years ago, I visited the surrounding land and swam in Walden Pond, not far from Concord, Massachusetts and made famous by Henry David Thoreau, who went to live there in a small cabin in 1845, I had already read Walden; or, Life in the Woods, which describes his stay there over a period of two years. I had time to reflect on where I was going as I cycled there from Boston, and felt that I was approaching a sacred place. Oddly, there was no one else there, and I was pleased to find the water clean and inviting.

    I had known since the age of 15, when I had first read Walden and Thoreau’s other writings, including On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, that I could trust his deep connection to Nature. He had built his cabin from repurposed and found materials, all for the grand sum of $28.12½ (equivalent to $938 today). I have tried to emulate his handiness and quest for living a simple life. I have never felt happier than when being with people in the tropics who do not have a door to their dwelling.

    Walden Pond hasn’t changed since Thoreau was there, though the trees are broader and higher. I’m not alone in my praise or in taking a pilgrimage to Walden Pond, as thousands have come too. His sojourn there was an inspiration for the world to cherish Earth. 

    The renowned biologist Edward O. Wilson wrote a letter to Thoreau more than a century later. He imagined the two of them a-sauntering through the woods and spoke of his gratitude for Thoreau’s presence in a prologue to his book The Future of Life. He even invited Thoreau to join him and a hundred others at Walden Pond on July 4, 1998 for the first Biodiversity Day (sometimes called a BioBlitz, in which local people and scientists try to find and document all the forms of life in a small area of land and water).

    He also sang Thoreau’s praises as the “founding saint of the conservation movement,” and wrote, “a lake is the eye of the world through which—your metaphor—we can measure our own souls.”

    Wilson believed that giving young people an interactive set of discussions on biology would foster a deeper love for Nature. His free 7-unit, 41-chapter multimedia work E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth, written for high school students, is remarkable. You can download the series from the iBooks Store. As an example, the description of cells is astonishing, and to see one magnified 10,000 times took my breath away. Such beauty. We are taken into the multi-faceted interlocking parts of the cell. We see how a cell lives. This series certainly helps us celebrate Nature’s wonders.

    All of this brings me to the celebrations, protests, concerts, lectures, films and poetry gatherings that started in 1970 for Earth Day—a grassroots initiative that has become the world’s largest secular holiday, and that for many of us has expanded into Earth Week. Earth Day itself falls on April 22, but many times it’s scheduled to take place on the weekend before or after a mid-week April 22 to enable more people to attend. The official theme for 2024 is Planet vs. Plastics.

    The deadly effect of plastics for humans and other animals is well known, so highlighting the UN negotiations on substantially curbing plastics on such a recognized global event as Earth Day makes sense. The UN negotiators are at last moving ahead with a global plastics treaty. Their fourth session starts in Ottawa this coming week.

    This weekend the Center for Biological Diversity and others in the Break Free From Plastic movement will rally to remind the negotiators what’s at stake: human rights, public health, the climate, and the environment.

    “We need to ensure that we use, reuse, and recycle resources more efficiently. And dispose safely of what is left over. And use these negotiations to hone a sharp and incisive instrument to carve out a better future, free from plastic pollution,” said Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Inger Andersen.

    You can learn more about Earth Day at

    Having a day or a week to meditate on appreciating as well as protecting our wonderful planet is clearly not enough. There are many internationally designated theme days that should also be contemplated, including, to name a few that many have taken part in, World Water Day, World Wetlands Day, World Environment Day, World Population Day, International Day of Forests, Amphibian Week, World Oceans Day, World Frog Day, World Rainforest Day, and International Day for Biological Diversity. These events are meant to educate us into becoming activists for protecting our Earth, and the global north needs to take particular notice.

    Earth Day celebrates our enfolding commitment to Earth. Is Earth Day, then, the binding of all the above celebratory days, and the centre of our love for life on Earth? Many say that Earth Day is every day. Let’s make it so. 

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