National Observance: Love a tree on Arbor Day

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FRIDAY, APRIL 27: Take a deep breath, because the secret is out: “Green” initiatives are supported by nearly every religious affiliation on the planet. Today, stretch your lungs and support your spiritual beliefs by planting a tree—it’s Arbor Day! Beyond clean air, trees also support the structure of the earth, contribute to clean water, and house birds, insects and other creatures. (Hey, Catholics—did you know that Pope Benedict XVI is passionate about the environment? It’s true. He even penned an entire book called “The Environment.”)

Thanks to ArborDay.org, you can mark this day nearly any way you’d like:

Take a walk in the woods and name trees like an expert, with help from the online tree identification guide.

Want to get your hands dirty? Get 10 free trees to plant by becoming a member of ArborDay.org. Join the collective effort that put 8 million trees in the ground last year.

Is your city a Tree City USA? More than 3,400 communities across the U.S. are. Find out if your city qualifies—and if not, help it to get there!

Kids can get involved, too! ReadTheSpirit recommends reading Ted Kooser’s new picture book. For free fun, get help at Disney’s Kaboose, with a whole array of tree-friendly crafts and activities.

Familiar with the trees in your area? Host a tree hunt that encourages participants to find historic, unusual or otherwise significant trees in the community. The prize: a tree to plant, of course!

The first Arbor Day took place in Nebraska, when J. Sterling Morton collected volunteers to plant more than 1 million trees on April 10, 1872. (Wikipedia has details.) Eleven years later, Birdsey Northrop took the idea to Japan, Australia, Canada and Europe. Arbor Day didn’t reach its height until a few years ago, though, when David Wright launched an Arbor Day website for public celebrations; Wright defended the matter, in federal court, that Arbor Day should be a property of the public domain.

Most Americans mark Arbor Day on the last Friday of April, although international dates vary.

Want more environmental news?

Watch Facing the Storm, Story of the American Bison, free on PBS—or on DVD.

Read our earlier Earth Day 2012 story for more news and links.

Check out the faith-related resources from the Humane Society of the US.

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