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The original Earth Day vision

Tom Boyd

John McConnel has been very active during his 90 years on planet Earth. As the original founder of Earth Day, he has come face to face with world leaders and helped fashion the way we view our planet. But Earth Day wasn’t originally intended to be just about environmentalism. McConnel believes that the goals of peace, justice and care of Earth are all dependent upon one another, so his original vision for Earth Day was a day to recognize all these goals. The original date for Earth Day was March 20 the spring equinox, but political forces changed the date to April 22. The cities of Denver, Berkeley, and San Francisco have recently all made official proclamations acknowledging March 20 as Earth Day, but most institutions (including the Vail Trail, apparently) are behind the times, and still think of April 22 as Earth Day.McConnel continues his work from his home in Denver, and spoke with the Vail Trail recently about his vision for Earth Day. For more on Earth Day, visit earthsite.org.Q: When did you come up with the original concept of Earth Day?A: In 1969 I thought we needed a day for our planet a great holiday for the whole human family, for every creed and every culture. That we should come together one day a year where we would put aside our differences and celebrate and pay attention to what we could all agree was most important in our world and that’s to take care of our planet. In 1969, I was in my Mother’s home in San Francisco. Peter Tamaras, head of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, had warmly endorsed my Earth Day idea and asked me to draft an Earth Day Proclamation.I wondered what day Earth Day should be and I thought of different days, then I suddenly thought of Stonehenge in England where there are ancient stones that show when the equinox occurs and when the solstice occurs. I thought about it. Well anyway, I called to my wife this was back on October 1st, 1969 and I said, “We’re going to have Earth Day on the March equinox!” And immediately our house started shaking. It was a small earthquake! So the earth responded.Q: I understand the original concept of Earth Day was more broad, but how much of the original idea revolved around conservation of the environment and a sense of care for the planet?A: The original purpose of Earth Day was “peace, justice and the care of Earth.” I felt that we needed to pursue all three for any one of them to succeed.Q: What’s your Earth Day dream come true?A: Our planet and its people are headed for doom. But I believe in miracles and a global focus on the meaning and purpose of Earth Day could change the global state of mind and provide a new beginning for the human adventure.Q: Here’s a whacky question: what if we could ask the Earth how it’s feeling how do you think it would respond?A: If the miraculous skin of life that covers our globe were endowed with feeling, I think it would be mad as hell at the stupidity of the people who populate our globe. VTWhat are your thoughts on Earth Day? To send a message to John McConnel, contact The Vail Trail at tboyd@vailtrail.com.


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