Editorial: From Earth Day to Earth Week

Apr. 24, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

Earth Day is a holiday that pretty much everyone can get behind. It’s not affiliated with any particular religion, race, ethnic group or political party. It’s not even bound by national lines.

Studies show that recent years have witnessed a shift in mindset regarding environmentalism. What used to be regarded as a fringe social movement is now ingrained in most companies’ ideologies as well as individuals’ everyday lives.

“Green” campaigns and programs are pervasive and regarded posititvely. At the individual level, one 2012 study showed that people felt littering was more embarrassing than smoking or cheating on taxes.

Environmental activism is not a new thing. It’s just reached a tipping point. The modern movement really gained notice over 40 years ago, when representatives at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco proposed the first Earth Day for March 21, 1970.

A month later, former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson called for a separate Earth Day, set for April 22, to be a kind of national forum to address environmental issues. The first Earth Day had participants at 2,000 colleges and universities, 10,000 primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of committees across the country.

It’s now observed in 192 countries and is the largest secular holiday in the world.

This year’s Earth Day was Monday. Gatlinburg has environmentally focused events planned through Sunday. Earth Day has blossomed into Earth Week, as more and more areas find it hard to address so many environmental issues in one day.

Gatlinburg’s sixth annual Earth Day Festival will be held from 3-7 p.m. today in Mynatt Park. There will be live entertainment (Boogertown Gap and Tuatha Dea), food, crafts, activities and a program by motivational speaker Barry Mitchell.

The city’s second annual Earth Day 5K Run/Walk is a nighttime event scheduled for 10 p.m. Friday. Race day registration begins at 9 p.m. at Nantahala Outdoor Center, traffic light No. 10 on the Parkway.

Gatlinburg’s Earth Week culminates Sunday with Keep Sevier Beautiful’s “Get Growing” event, where children will learn green practices and pot a plant to take home. The free event is scheduled for 2-3:30 p.m.

Fore more information on these and other events, visit www.gatlinburg.com/events.