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Friday, April 9, 2010

Environmental Ethics, Conservation and the Earth Day

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It appears that the environmental conservation came to be included in the academic field in response to the works of some Naturalists or environmental scientists such as Rachel Carson, and some events such as the move for the celebration of the First Earth Day in 1970- when environmentalists started urging philosophers to consider the philosophical aspects of environmental problems. The publications of following papers had crucial impacts on the importance of Environmental Philosophy or the growth of Environmental Ethics-

1.Lynn White’s - “The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis” (March 1967), Science.
2.Garrett Hardin’sn- “The Tragedy of the Commons” (December 1968).Science.
3.The essay in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac, “The Land Ethic”. In this essay Leopold explicitly claimed that the roots of the Ecological Crisis were philosophical (1949).

It was after 1990 that the Environmental Ethics gained Institutional Recognition through programmes of Universities such as Colorado State, the University of Montana, Bowling Green State, and the University of North Texas. In 1991, Schumacher College of Darlington, England was founded and now provides a M.Sc. in Holistic Science. These programmes began to offer master degrees with a speciality in Environmental Ethics/Philosophy. Beginning in 2005, the department of philosophy and Religion Studies at the University of North Texas started offering Ph.D. programme with a concentration in environmental ethics/Philosophy.

The idea of First Earth Day was introduced by John Mc Connell in the UNESCO Conference on the environment in 1969. The Mayor of San Francisco Joseph Alioto issued the proclamation of the First Earth Day on March 21, 1970.Various cities of the world like San Francisco, Davis and California “with a multi-day street party”. Mr.  U. Thant, then U.N. Secretary-General, supported the global initiative of McConnell to celebrate the earth day as an annual event and signed a proclamation on February 26, 1971. In his proclamation he said-

“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 Secretary –General of United Nations Mr. Kurt Waldheim observed the Earth Day on the March Equinox in 1972. Adding his support for the Equinox Earth Day in 1978 said-

"EARTH DAY is 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 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 which shows the Earth, as seen from space, appropriate.”

Earth Day ceremonies were held in many countries together with the ceremonies held at the United Nations on March 20, 2008. These countries were California, Vienna, Paris, Lithuania; Tokyo etc.The celebrations included sounding of the Peace Bells. This ringing of the Peace Bells had started with the United Nations and the Peace Bell used there was donated by Japan.

The design of unofficial Earth-Day Flag by McConnell in 1970

Now the Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s Environment.
Gaylord Nelson, a Senator of United States from Wisconsin responded to the widespread environmental degradation and called for an environmental teach-in, or the Earth Day, to be celebrated on April 22, 1970. That year, the Earth Day was celebrated by more than twenty million people but now more than 500 million people and many National Governments in about 175 countries take part in the Earth Day celebrations.

Gaylord Nelson
Key Words:Environmental Ethics, Rachel Carson,Environmental Philosophy,Lynn White,Garrett Hardin,Aldo Leopold,The Land Ethic,Institutional Recognition,San Francisco,instantaneous communication,United Nations,Earth Day,Wisconsin,Gaylord Nelson, March Equinox 

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