Happy Earth Day!
Happy Earth Day! Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the modern environmental movement which began in 1970. The founder of Earth Day was the then U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, who proposed the first nationwide environmental protest “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.” According to the California Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara, “The story goes that Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson after a trip he took to Santa Barbara right after that horrific oil spill off our coast in 1969. He was so outraged by what he saw that he went back to Washington and passed a bill designating April 22 as a national day to celebrate the earth.”
In The Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature, Lily de Silva points out that:
“Prior to the rise of Buddhism people regarded natural phenomena such as mountains, forests, groves, and trees with a sense of awe and reverence. They considered them as the abode of powerful non-human beings who could assist human beings at times of need. Though Buddhism gave man a far superior Triple Refuge (tisarana) in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, these places continued to enjoy public patronage at a popular level, as the acceptance of terrestrial non-human beings such as devatas and yakkhas did not violate the belief system of Buddhism. Therefore among the Buddhists there is a reverential attitude towards specially long-standing gigantic trees. They are vanaspati in Pali, meaning ‘lords of the forests.’ As huge trees such as the ironwood, the sala, and the fig are also recognized as the Bodhi trees of former Buddhas, the deferential attitude towards trees is further strengthened. It is well known that the ficus religiosa is held as an object of great veneration in the Buddhist world today as the tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment.”
Also on this day, back in 1954, the United Nations put into force the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which guaranteed asylum to those persecuted in their homelands on account of their ethnicity, religion, or political opinion.