As you drive, walk and bike through our fair city, be on the lookout for litter.
Evanston RoundTable, April 6, 2022
Friday, April 22, is Earth Day and all of April is Earth Month, at least here in Evanston. There are many events underway, most of which are listed on the city’s website.
Well and good, I suppose.
But the curmudgeonly part of my brain, which occasionally takes over the whole of it, suggests to me that – despite how wonderful some of this month’s programs are, and how important to highlight and support them – the whole business of calendarizing events is sometimes quite strange and in some ways counter-productive. After all, one day? What about the other 364?
By now it should be abundantly clear that most of the designated national days, weeks and month on the calendar are, well, is “ridiculous” too strong a word?
Certainly many of them are. To name only a few there’s National Lima Bean Respect Day (April 20); National Lost Sock Memorial Day (May 9); National Crouton Day (May 13); National Upsy Daisy Day (June 8); and National Rat Catcher’s Day (July 22).
Convinced yet? And there are hundreds more, including National Absurdity Day (Nov. 20), which at least seems to capture the true flavor of these non-funny and non-useful non-events.
How do these absurdities get onto the calendar? Apparently there’s a website that accepts and sifts through submissions and deems some 25 a year worth institutionalizing.
Got something in mind? Have at it! Why not National Clean Your Toenails Day or – and here’s one we can all get behind – National Evanston RoundTable Day, which we might want to designate on Feb. 18, the day the first issue came out in 1998. (Note to self: remember this idea for the next April Fool’s issue.)
The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, which was a Wednesday. Why then? According to the EarthSky website, the date was selected “in part because it fell between colleges’ spring break and final exams, and also from the observance of Arbor Day…” The original idea is credited to among others, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin, who envisioned the day as taking the form of teach-ins around the country.
Chicago marked the event with a lively demonstration at the Daley Center, then known as the Civic Center. I was intent on taking part. As I’ve written before, I had in my possession a surplus World War I gas mask, a very strange-looking device with a snout like a pig where you inserted an air-filtering canister. As a political statement and theatrical gesture I decided to wear the gas mask, and my plan was to start at Chicago and Michigan avenues and walk the mile south to the demonstration. Only one problem: the gas mask fogged up and I plunged straight into a lamp post. So much for my street theater cred.
Notwithstanding that little fiasco, today some billion people around the world mark the day in some fashion, from street theater demonstrations to cleanup activities, according to the earthday website.
That’s nice, but the obvious question is: why limit it to one day? Why one week or even a whole month? We live on the planet earth, our only home, 24/7 by 365. That’s 31½ million seconds a year. It should be obvious that every second of every day is Earth Time, and designating a small part of the calendar to think about it is almost as absurd as, well, National Absurdity Day.
So, what can we do about it? How can we focus every day as Earth Day? Along the lines of the old saying “all politics is local,” let’s agree that making Evanston cleaner would be a great start. So here’s the plan. As you drive, walk and bike through our fair city, be on the lookout for litter. Sadly it is all around us – on curbs, sidewalks, streets, parks, benches and beaches.
My cousin David calls himself “a compulsive trash picker-upper.” I ask him why. “Simple. To make the world a better place, for one. In the Jewish tradition it’s tikkun olam, healing the world. And more practically, the cleaner things are, the less likely someone is to litter.”
There you have it. Stop, pick up litter, drop it in a trash can. Rinse and repeat. Couple of times a week and our city will be a lot better off. No expensive paraphernalia, no corny demonstrations, no one-off cleanup events. Just Earth Day – all the time.