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Thanks to the efforts of one remarkably-named Gaylord Nelson, eco-forward Earthlings now have one day in the year in which to focus all their finger-licking gusto to save the planet. It was Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin and environmental crusader, who masterminded the first Earth Day shindig back in April 22, 1970. The US-wide procession was so impressive that, according to online reports, it “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.” It’s the stuff hippie-love fests are made of.

This annual call for environmental citizenship has since spawned its own international frat of tree-huggers. Earth Day Network’s global web has access to over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries. Chipping away at this nature conscious thing for 38 years and counting, Earth Day is now the only event celebrated simultaneously around the planet by half a billion green-minded people.

The one we marked just a few days ago was especially drama-filled since — aside from growing concern about oil spills, pollution from factories, melting polar ice caps, raw sewage, toxic dumps, the use of pesticides, the loss of wilderness, and the  extinction of wildlife – the world is on the brink of an apparent food crisis (not to mention a possible Miley Cyrus photo scandal). Sigh.

Moar Inconvenient Truths

Al Gore, out-of-work politician turned Nobel Peace Prize winner and ecological Chicken Little, has even stated that things have gotten worse since his big-budget slide show, An Inconvenient Truth, hit cinemas in 2006.

“Sure, awareness has grown and more people are concerned since scientists said we had just 10 years to take action to halt rising sea levels. But the situation has got worse. The entire North Polar ice cap is melting and could be gone in some areas in as little as five years,” he told reporters from the Agence-France Press. “You have to ask what would it take to set off the alarm bells to make this a top-of-mind priority in the body politic.”

Cresting the same eco-centric wave, The 11th Hour is a 2007 documentary on the state of the environment. Created, produced, and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film highlights — you can even say underlines and draws arrows to — hot-button topics like global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans’ habitats.

“Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity,” Leo said. “We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet.”

As if his movie star megawattage wasn’t enough, over 50 of the world’s most prominent minds, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Stephen Hawking, also contributed to the effort. Some critics have panned it for resorting to anti-forestry scare tactics instead of science to drum up concern for the Earth’s life systems. The Hollywood hype may have generated much-needed debate but frankly, what we need is action.

A Good Kind Of Blackout

Over the last few years, it seems that eco-geekdom has become sort of trendy in the lead up to Earth Day and the days immediately following it. Earth Hour, for instance, is a fairly recent addition to the string of international eco-focused events. Initiated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 2007, Earth Hour is held on the last Saturday of March. With the tagline, “See the difference you can make,” it asks individual households and businesses to switch off their lights and non-essential electrical appliances for one hour in the evening.

From Bangkok and Bogotá to Pretoria and Pyongyang, tons of cities across the world supported the project. In good old Manila, street lights went out along Roxas Boulevard, a scene that brought some back to the massive power outage brought about by Typhoon Milenyo two years ago. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv moved their Earth Hour earlier to Thursday, March 27 to avoid conflict with their observation of the Sabbath. And as Nelly Furtado held a free concert while downtown Toronto was bathed in darkness, astronomers set up high-powered telescopes in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to allow people to take advantage of the night sky, normally swamped by bright city lights.

Again, this rising tide of environmental concern may be seen as merely bandwagonesque behavior. In my opinion, however, major companies (Disney, Google), publications (Vanity Fair, Domino), and fashion designers (Rogan Gregory, Behnaz Sarafpour) piggybacking on this green campaign can only be a good thing. It’s an awesome way for the eco-radical message to reach people outside the typical Birkenstock-and-granola circle.

I Am Neither A Plastic Nor A Douche Bag

I, for one, am going green little by little. Since moving to my own place just a few days ago, I have given up my car and driver in my bid to save on gas and avoid traffic-induced stress. I now cross the street to get to work and walk a few blocks to get to the mall, among other urban conveniences. It’s a pretty liberating feeling.

And since my apartment is blessed with floor-to-ceiling windows, I go solar till about 6:30 p.m., which should shave a substantial amount from my first electric bill. Given that it’s really just a big bedroom with an open layout, I had to get really creative with the furniture. Instead of buying new pieces, I merely swiped stuff from my parents and grandparents and had them reupholstered or repurposed stuff I’ve brought home from crisscrossing the globe. Again, Domino magazine would be so proud of how I fixed it all up. Sniff.

Of course, the gadgets are new but in the name of basic energy reduction, I make sure to unplug those that aren’t in use. As for groceries and food, I buy in bulk to reduce the amount of crap that ends up in our landfills and use an induction cooker since it’s said to be more energy efficient. My eco-radicalism is in its baby stage so I guess my greenness is closer to a shade of avocado than to a full-blown pine one. It’s a start, right?

Now that Knut The Bear is a poster creature for global warming and Bindi Irwin — despite the dead eyes — is making nature cool for the tween demographic, calls to save Mother Earth shouldn’t be limited to April 22. That said, I don’t want everyone to be uptight and dogmatic about the environment. What I’m after is enlightened living. Look at it this way: If we just make better choices with how we live our daily lives from now on — the things we buy, eat, use, and throw away — don’t you think it could be Earth Day every day?

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