Earth Day 2008 on April 22 will occur during Turnoff Week (April 21-27) this year, providing the ultimate occasion to reflect on our connection with nature. Children and adults spend far too much time watching screens. This takes away from other important activities such as reading, fitness and most significantly connecting with the natural environment. The enthusiasm derived from these coinciding events is a superb opportunity to introduce ongoing routines to reconnect us and our children with nature and to renew values of respect for our world and its inhabitants.
Turnoff Week 2008 (April 21-27) is a national effort to raise public awareness about the impact of excessive screen time and its correlation with childhood obesity. It is estimated that more than 20 million people participate each year. "American youth spend more time watching television, on recreational use of computers and playing video games than doing anything else," says Robert Kesten, Executive Director of The Center for SCREEN-TIME Awareness. "If we are looking for a world with a future, then we have to maintain human interaction with others and the environment."
There are currently two celebrated Earth Days: The United Nation's Earth Day was introduced at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in 1969 and had its first event on the equinox in March 1970. The April 22 event was first proposed by US Senator Gaylord Nelson as a nationwide grassroots environmental demonstration in which 20 million Americans demonstrated for a sustainable environment. According to the Earth Day Network, this annual event is now considered to be the largest secular holiday in the world, celebrated by more than a half billion people every year.
"The goal of Earth Day is to help people make simple changes in their everyday life that reduce fuel consumption, save water, generate less garbage, and lead to sustainable buying habits. Simple things, like turning off the TV on a daily basis, can bring about positive change without compromising our lifestyles" says Keith Treffry, Director of Communications for Earth Day Canada. "It may seem small but when your neighbour does their part, and their neighbour, then suddenly small actions become something big and important."
One big change we can all make is turning off our screens and spending more time outside. You cannot connect to the magnificence of nature by sitting at a screen. Children need to be outdoors, using all their senses to experience the natural world. They need to feel the warmth of the sun or the coolness of the breeze, smell the flowers, hear the sound of the whispering leaves and feel the dew drops on a leaf. These hands-on encounters cannot be found on any screen. Exploring the beauty of nature helps build respect for our planet and all of its inhabitants.
You can reconnect with nature through many non-screen activities for both children and adults:
* Start a weekly hiking or eco-club to share your interest with other families.
* Schedule in a daily walk or run.
* Keep a nature journal.
* Establish a small organic garden and plant some vegetables.
* Plant or adopt a tree.
* Study in detail a localized ecosystem such as an old log or a pond.
* Observe the details of an everyday object in nature.
* Experience the beauty of nature by focusing on different senses.
* Listen quietly to nature and write out what you hear.
* Sit under a tree and write a poem or a song.
* Draw or paint pictures of a landscape or objects in nature.
* Look for patterns in natures (such as fractals, the golden ratio and Fibonacci numbers).