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Shades of Green: No shortage of Earth 'birthday' activities

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“Shades of Green,” a column on environmental issues related to the UIC campus and community, appears monthly in UIC News.

Earth Day is a great model to celebrate birthdays — there are two observances (spring for the northern hemisphere and fall for the southern hemisphere), some celebrations last the entire month, and this year you would only be 39 years old!

But what are we really celebrating?

To many, the first Earth Day — April 22, 1970 — marks the beginning of the environmental movement.

Proposed by Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin and organized by environmentalist Denis Hays, it saw over 20 million Americans participate in rallies across the nation to protest against pollution, oil spills, toxic dumps and extinction of wildlife. Today, more than 500 million people in 164 countries celebrate Earth Day festivities.

On its 20th birthday participants made awareness of environmental issues an international priority, with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janeiro.

The most important outcome of the June 1992 meeting was the development of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global warming. An important update to that treaty was the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions (the United States has not ratified the agreement).

Fast forward to 2009. Cities and universities (including UIC) are developing climate action plans, strategies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emission. The Obama stimulus package includes funding for energy research and, on the state level, rebates for residents who do retrofits and upgrades.

UIC is planning activities in April to celebrate Earth Month; we challenge you to attend at least one event.

The full calendar is available online.

Learn how to bike in the city at a workshop today and ride in the historical bike tour of the east campus April 17. Soup, anyone? Hull-House Museum offers Re-Thinking Soup every Tuesday, where you can eat delicious, healthy soup and have conversations about social, cultural, economic and environmental food issues.

Departments — start spring cleaning! The Great Stuff Exchange returns April 23; the Office of Sustainability will collect extra and unused office supplies and give it away to faculty, students and staff.

And join us on Earth Day April 22 for the Chancellor’s Committee on Sustainability and Energy meeting to learn more about UIC’s sustainable efforts and progress. Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares will sign the international Talloires Declaration to demonstrate UIC’s commitment to sustainability and the environment.

There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day at UIC. If I could have that many activities to celebrate my own birthday, I would really be happy.

Monica Rausa Williams is director of outreach for the Office of Sustainability and co-chair of the Chancellor’s Committee for Sustainability and Energy. Send comments and suggestions to sustainability@uic.edu

Previous columns

New beginnings a time to take action (02/11/09)

Holiday lights need more green (12/03/08)

Start off small when making home 'green' (11/12/08)

No more excuses! It's time to bike (10/08/08)

Measuring your carbon footprint (09/10/08)

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