Earth Day: In 46th year, join the movement to plant 7.8 billion trees

FRIDAY, APRIL 22: What started as a political movement born out of necessity in response to current events has evolved into a worldwide initiative with deep spiritual connections, as the world celebrates the 46th annual Earth Day. Spearheaded by Sen. Gaylord Nelson in 1970, the Earth Day Network—now a powerful force behind Earth Day and environmental action on several levels—has dubbed this year’s theme, “Trees for the Earth.” Planting enough trees is, according to the organization, one of the best ways to effectively clean our polluted air and effectively assist in several other pressing environmental issues. With a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees, the Earth Day Network calls on volunteers, financial supporters and—on a grassroots level—everyone. The Earth Day Network encourages religious participation by explaining that, “We encourage all people of faith across the globe to join us on Earth Day.”

This year, the Earth Day Network explains:

“In 1970, the year of our first Earth Day, the movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling human energy toward environmental issues. Forty-six years later, we continue to lead with groundbreaking ideas and by the power of our example.

And so it begins. Today. Right here and right now. Earth Day is more than just a single day — April 22, 2016. It’s bigger than attending a rally and taking a stand.

This Earth Day and beyond, let’s make big stuff happen. Let’s plant 7.8 billion trees for the Earth. Let’s divest from fossil fuels and make cities 100% renewable. Let’s take the momentum from the Paris Climate Summit and build on it.

Let’s start now. And let’s not stop.”
Faith-based resources: Convenient links will take you to statements of concern for the Earth from a host of religious groups. Need some inspiring material to carry with you into your congregation? You’ll find plenty of choices from that online starting point.


Engineers may design eco-friendly energy sources and leaders support a “green economy,” but Earth Day Network insists it’s everyday people—those who live sustainably by conserving resources, recycling, buying organic produce and performing other individual acts—who truly make a difference on a global scale.

Earth Day Network also coordinates and inspires several events across the U.S., which includes the Earth Month Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair (STEM Fair); the Environmental Film Festival; and the Green Fashion Show. The STEM Fair was underwritten by NASA, Grant Thornton, Chobani and Copia.

It’s Spring! Enjoy these nationwide themes at work and home!

APRIL and MAY 2015—Spring is in full swing as April and May unfold, bringing a rainbow of colors with flowers in the fields, in parks and in gardens everywhere. Till some soil and showcase the beauty of nature, because Earth Day and Arbor Day are both in April. Encourage conservation during National Park Week (April 18-26), and then welcome spring at its fullest on May Day.

If you’re stuck inside, days at the office are more fun by observing the Administrative Professionals Day in April, which may sound awkward, but your office will be a happier place if you remember it! There’s a lot of action at work this spring with Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, too. After work, spend some quality time with the family—May is National Family Month.

With warm weather and spring in the air, get outside and get active, as May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Surprise Mom with some flowers on May 10, for the American Mother’s Day, and remember the fallen on Memorial Day.

Also, bring awareness of Jewish American heritage and Asian/Pacific American heritage, as both will highlighted. Don’t forget about Mexican heritage, too—May 5 is Cinco de Mayo!

The month of April raises awareness of autism, and May brings Arthritis Awareness, Asthma Awareness and National Stroke Awareness Month. May is also Older Americans Month, so pay special attention to the older persons in your life—and learn more about the public issues that concern them. Eager to get outside and grill? May is National Barbecue Month and National Hamburger Month, so dust off those grills and fire ‘em up.

Check out these highlights …


Examine your daily impact on the environment—and what you can do to improve your carbon footprint—on Earth Day, an annual event that encourages all of us to understand environmental issues and take action. The first Earth Day launched in 1970, following a UNESCO Conference and fueled, in part, by the aftermath of a massive oil spill near the coast of California. An environmental teach-in drew 20 million participants nationwide and focused efforts within the United States. Since its fledgling beginnings, Earth Day has grown exponentially in global efforts, and now reaches close to 200 countries. This year, on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, the theme “It’s our turn to lead” brings grassroots to the forefront and encourages every world citizen to lead by example.

Make a difference! The year 2015 has been named the International Year of Soils by the United Nations. By composting your old fruit and vegetable peels, you can create rich soil—instead of letting the peels decompose in landfills where, without oxygen, they create methane. (Get a how-to here.) Methane has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.


Each year on May 5, citizens of the U.S., Mexico and beyond celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the anniversary of the 1862 Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla. May 5 often is mistaken for Mexico’s Independence Day. But, Cinco de Mayo is a big celebration of Mexican culture, history and cuisine around the world. What began as a small celebration by Mexicans in California, excited by news of the victory in 1862, has been observed in California ever since. In the 1940s, the Chicano movement fueled national celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla, and Cinco de Mayo soon became a national commemoration for Mexican culture. On June 7, 2005, Congress issued a resolution calling on the President of the United States to issue a proclamation for the American people to observe Cinco de Mayo. Today, Mexican heritage is on display in schools, restaurants, public buildings and more worldwide.

Hungry for some authentic Mexican recipes? Find ideas at Food Network, Food & Wine and AllRecipes.


There’s no better time to get out and get active! Spring weather is rolling across the Northern Hemisphere, and May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Only 1 in 5 adults gets enough physical activity to see substantial health benefits, according to national reports. And those benefits are important: a lowered risk of heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and some types of cancer are among a few. Studies also show that children who get enough exercise perform better in school, and fit older adults experience fewer falls and generally have better mental functioning. Spread awareness of the importance of physical fitness by holding a community event, Tweeting about the cause or writing about sports and health in a newsletter or on a blog. Aim to get 60 minutes of exercise per day, by walking, bike riding or using an outdoor community play area. Consider exercising during part of a lunch break at work.

Having trouble getting your family outdoors? Become part of UofM Dr. Wayne Baker’s campaign #OurKidsEarth

Learn more by visiting and


The Administration for Community Living urges Americans to set aside time each May to observe Older Americans Month. In recognition of the contributions that seniors have made to their country, Older Americans Month promotes health and longevity of these important citizens through awareness programs, campaigns and more. This year, on the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act, the theme is Get into the Act. Older Americans are being urged to engage in their communities through volunteering, mentoring and more. By highlighting issues like elder abuse and promoting healthy aging, and establishing programs that properly address the needs of older adults, the Administration for Community Living hopes to create a better quality of living for all older Americans.

Earth Day: Cut your carbon footprint. Add to A Billion Acts of Green!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22: This Earth Day, rally behind the world’s largest faiths as they call global citizens to protect the planet and promote stewardship. Every major faith regards the Earth as a gift that must be respected: Whether the action is Christians supporting Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical; Sikhs in Washington, D.C., reminding the faithful of the Earth as the Divine Mother; Jews reflecting on the Book of Genesis; or religious statesman Rajan Zed directing a multi-faith invocation that includes interfaith prayers, the term “environment” spans the religious divides. Earth Day Network, the massive organization that drives environmental movements year-round, recognizes that faith leaders and organizations play a key role in supportive efforts, offering several resources for congregations and an entire section devoted to faith-related, environmental news.


Want evidence of the widespread interest in this theme? An Earth Day rally and concert last Saturday drew thousands to the National Mall, where dignitaries from around the world watched performances by No Doubt, Usher, Mary J. Blige and more. (Read more in USA Today.) Saturday’s event highlighted the connections between poverty and climate change, pointing out how sustainable growth will aid poverty, but continued climate change will inevitably lead to increased poverty worldwide. This year’s Earth Day theme is, “It’s Our Turn to Lead.”


Scholars charting the rise of Earth Day awareness point to the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” as a milestone in public awareness. Then, a massive oil spill near California hit the coast in 1969. Harnessing the youthful passion in anti-war protests, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson proposed a day for an environmental teach-in—first held on April 22, 1970. (Wikipedia has details.) The event, which followed a similar proposal made at the 1969 UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, attracted 20 million participants, from coast to coast.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, with events taking place in 141 countries. Today, Earth Day Network—founded by the organizers of the first Earth Day in 1970—promotes year-round environmental action, by launching campaigns, connecting activists, providing a platform for communication and pushing for changes in global policies. The Earth Day Network currently reaches 192 countries.


This year, President Barack Obama is set to mark Earth Day in the Florida Everglades, where climate change is not only evident but a marked threat to the local economy. With the 21st century witnessing many of the warmest years on record thus far, millions of Americans are aware we’re facing a problem. In his talk, Obama will address the nation’s positive actions—such as cutting carbon pollution and collaborating on a global agreement for emissions cuts.

This summer, the Vatican will go green. Pope Francis is promising to issue a papal encyclical on the environment—thereby making the environment a mandatory topic for Catholic institutions worldwide. One of the highest forms of church teaching, an encyclical is permanently incorporated into the teaching documents of the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis is using this platform to show just how relevant—and necessary—global action now is. (Huffington Post reported.)

Anticipated themes in the encyclical include:

  • Earth as a gift from God
  • Humans as stewards of the earth’s order
  • And, the poor as the most threatened victims of climate change.

In 1997, Patriarch Bartholomew of the Eastern Orthodox Church became the first worldwide Christian leader to call pollution “sinful,” and it’s anticipated that Pope Francis will regard the matter in a similar way. Though the encyclical will be focused on the worldwide Catholic community, the headlines surrounding its release are expected to prompt many other men and women in leadership positions to echo these themes.

In September, Earth Day Network will reveal an in-game experience designed to raise environmental awareness and created with the developers of “Angry Birds.” The in-game experience, called “Champions for Earth,” will be unveiled as world leaders congregate in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting.

What can I do? In December, key UN meetings in Paris will present another chance for a global treaty on climate change. As international treaties have consistently stalled or failed over the past 20 years, groups around the world are calling for public efforts to urge the Paris conference to take new actions.

Locally, individuals can take time on Earth Day to clean up their community, change habits, start a community garden or contact elected officials. The possibilities are endless, says Earth Day Network. To change your footprint, check out My Plastic Free Life, for ideas and suggestions of cutting down on the materials that threaten landscapes and environments. (Learn more here.)

And, remember: Earth Day is every day.


Monday through Friday this week, UofM’s Dr. Wayne Baker will post daily ideas in the OurValues project that you can explore with your family. We want you to chime in, too! If you decide to share your own Earth Day-themed ideas this week on Facebook or Twitter, use the #OurKidsEarth hashtag.