Not to be confused with Earth Day, which is celebrated in the United States in April, Equinox Earth Day was discovered by peace activist John McConnell in 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco to celebrate the Earth and the concept of peace. Given the rise in geopolitical tensions, an unexpected world war, and our fight against the unfathomable atrocities of humanity, it is key for us to signify today and every day as a way to honour the planet we live on.
But why do we celebrate equinoctial Earth Day?
The equinoctial Earth Day marks the arrival of astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. An equinox in astronomy depicts the point in time when the Sun is directly above the Earth’s equator, which falls around March 20 and September 23 each year. John McConnell signed a proclamation saying, “May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.”
The concept is, according to Americal cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, to celebrate this day as the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and the instantaneous communication through space. Earth Day draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – by using the Vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making the length of night and day equal in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, Earth Day attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible and a flag that shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate.
A tradition that’s observed on equinoctial Earth Day every year is the ringing of the Japanese Peace Bell, which Japan donated to the United Nations. Over the years, ceremonies were held in various countries with peace bells being sounded in California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania, Tokyo, and various other locations. Apart from the Spring Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere, there is observed a Spring Equinox for the Southern Hemisphere in September, specifically September 21 which marks the International Day of Peace.
As our planet progresses with technological advancements and modernization, essential responsibilities fall on our shoulders to take care of mother Earth. We must treat this day as a day to raise awareness of the treacheries the planet is going through with respect to the overconsumption of limited and depleting natural resources, the invasive species that threaten the delicate balance necessary to maintain life, diseases, pollution, and a warming climate that’s putting wildlife populations at risk. Such concrete evidence that irreversible changes in Earth’s climate systems are underway proves we are in a state of planetary emergency. Add to it an unexpected world war, the repercussions of which will be devastating for the planet in the future. To preserve our planet for future generations, we must take action now. Below, you’ll find effective ways you can vow to make a significant change.
Let your voice be heard
If you’re passionate about a certain environmental or global cause, don’t let the fear of judgment stop you from sharing your opinions. Find climate activist organizations like Greenpeace India, Clean Air Asia, India, Help Delhi Breathe, and more (scroll below for the list) where you can volunteer and participate in initiatives that are trying to bring change into the world. Armed conflicts lead to environmental degradation, with long-lasting effects that can devastate populations. Raising awareness of these issues can spread the word to a larger audience and build a community that actively participates in creating change.
Vow to refuse
While we’re all familiar with the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – there is one R that we often overlook which is to refuse. Saying no in a world of consumerism can be challenging but not impossible. Refusing to shop at a clearance sale or indulging in shopping sprees, reducing energy consumption by refusing to drive often, or even being mindful of taking long showers to save water can create a difference. The next time you’re tempted to purchase or accept a non-essential item, think about how this will improve the quality of your life. If the answer is no, it’s completely acceptable to refuse.
Pledge to lower your carbon footprint
Understanding your carbon footprint can help you limit the significant impact of your consumption. Making small but conscious changes can create a huge difference in the long run. Some of the ways you can lower your carbon footprint are:
- Consuming seasonal and local produce that isn’t transported across cities.
- Cutting down on your meat consumption.
- Choosing to eat fish that is sustainably farmed.
- Bringing reusable shopping bags to go zero-waste in your shopping.
- Making sure that you only shop what is necessary and not indulging in over consumption.
- Reduce driving by carpooling instead or cycling or using public transport to reduce pollution.
- Take shorter showers to reduce water consumption.
- Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or cleaning the dishes.
- Unplug all electronic devices when not in use.
- Shop less and thrift or swap if you’re in pressing need of something – practice circular fashion.
- Select energy-efficient products that come with a certified label – look for a 5-star rating.
- Limit and recycle your waste.
Plant a tree
Green pockets in a concrete jungle can help us breathe better. While development is important, we shouldn’t forget the necessity of nature and how it protects us. And while we can’t stop people or companies and builders from chopping trees to create space for development, we can always try and replace the destruction we humans are creating to let our Earth survive.
Let’s not forget that trees give us oxygen, take away carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide us with shade in the summers, keeping the climate cool and clean. Not only that, they give us wood during as well as after their life span. Planting a tree, even if it’s in your family yard, not only benefits your health but also offsets your carbon footprint, especially if it bears fruits and veggies that you can consume organically.
To help you make the right next steps towards environmental conversation, here’s a list of eco-warriors who you can join hands with to save the planet.
Drop Dead Foundation – Aabid Surti’s one-man NGO foundation working towards saving water
CHINTAN – One of the top environmental organizations in India working towards responsible consumption of resources
The Wildlife Protection Society of India – WPSI is working towards raising awareness regarding the overwhelming Indian wildlife crisis
Navdanya – Another NGO working to promote biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, organic farming, seed saving, and the farmers’ rights
Toxics Link – Toxics Link is working towards raising awareness regarding the various ways our environment is getting poisoned while also offering sustainable and clean alternatives
The arrival of the March equinox marks the beginning of longer days and warmer weather. But as the main reason to honour this day is to vow to take care of our planet, we must not just put the importance on one day and celebrate Mother Earth every single day by nurturing and taking care of her. Yes, change begins small but if you gradually increase your efforts towards saving the planet, they can largely contribute towards preserving the environment and will surely leave a big impact.