anne mikolay 2012 120Happy Earth Day, 2014!

Earth Day, also known as International Mother Earth Day, is an annual event commemorated across the globe. First observed in 1970, Earth Day (April 22nd) now reminds individuals to care for the environment and appreciate the world we live in.

But let's be honest. Most people don't know April 22nd is Earth Day, and quite a few don't care. Earth Day has been reduced to trite slogans and smiley-face globe stickers. For the record, let's review a few of the most popular Earth Day catchphrases.

Keep It Green, Keep It Clean.

Be Earth Friendly!

Earth Day...Every Day.

A Good Planet Is Hard to Find.

Reduce, Revise, Recycle.

Plant a Tree For Me.

Think Green!

May the Forest Be With You.

People Start Pollution; People Can Stop It.

Nurture Nature.

My contemporaries might remember the Keep America Beautiful campaign's 1971 “Crying Indian” commercial in which Iron Eyes Cody (Italian actor Espera Oscar de Corti 1904-1999) shed a single tear as trash tossed out a car window landed on his moccasins. The ad said, “Get Involved. Pollution Hurts All of Us.”

While such platitudes and commercials give teachers and marketing execs something to focus on, they don't make much difference to the rest of us. The most effective way to teach appreciation of our planet is to lead by example. Our kids will learn not to litter when they see us walk a few extra steps to discard trash in proper receptacles. Kids won't leave empty cups and popcorn buckets on the floor of the movie theater if we don't. They won't throw their garbage out car windows if they don't see adults doing it. Call me a tree-hugger, but kids can't appreciate trees if they've never been “introduced” to one; they can't appreciate the perfection of a flower if they've never planted one; they can't marvel at a pristine beach if they've never seen one. I'm going out on a limb and declaring Americans lazy; we take more than we should for granted. Our sense of self-entitlement entices us to purchase bigger gas-guzzling automobiles and convinces us the other guy can fix all the problems. Let somebody else save the earth; we're too busy.

While I'm not much impressed by Earth Day slogans or media campaigns, I applaud those who put words into action. Local high schools and youth groups, for example, routinely clean the beaches and work to restore vandalized properties, but you don't have to join such endeavors to make a difference. Rather, be guided by two age-old credos: 1) Stop and smell the roses. Literally. If you smell a rose, you will better appreciate it and do more to conserve it. 2) Every little bit counts. Truly. If you want appreciation of the earth to be the big deal Earth Day intends, you have to put a little effort into it.