Earth Day is written in stone

When is Earth Day?

The City of Laguna Beach will officially observe Earth Day on Monday, the vernal equinox. Most of the U.S. ? and many local environmental groups ? will celebrate it on April 22.

The City Council formally declared the vernal equinox ? the astronomical start of spring ? to be Earth Day henceforward in a proclamation signed March 7.

Charles Michael Murray, owner of Endangered Planet Gallery, a local art gallery with an environmental slant, presented the proclamation to Mayor Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider during public comment.

The mayor signed it on the spot after the council agreed to the request with little discussion.

For others in Laguna Beach, however, April 22 is Earth Day, and some 200 people have already signed up to participate in a beach cleanup planned on that day by Blue Water, another local environmental-oriented group, organizer Rick Conkey said.

In fact, most Earth Day celebrations in the U.S. take place on April 22.The "official" date of Earth Day has long been in dispute.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors proclaimed the first Earth Day to be March 21, 1970 ? and every vernal equinox thereafter ? in October 1969, at the request of John McConnell, an early environmentalist and minister who at one time lived in Newport Beach and now lives in Denver.

San Francisco's municipal proclamation was followed a month later by the first major political Earth Day event.

On April 22, 1970, millions of demonstrators traveled to Washington, D.C. for an environmental "teach-in," demanding the government promote environmentally-friendly policies.

Then-Wisconsin Gov. Gaylord Nelson is credited with galvanizing the anti-war student protest movement of the era into a massive demonstration of public will on that day, and the date was selected to maximize student involvement.

Others believe that the summer solstice in June would be a better Earth Day than either of those dates.

Murray says he simply wanted to honor the original Earth Day founder's vision.

"The original Earth Day, the vernal equinox, should be honored with its original spirit on the day the founder, John McConnell, declared it to be," Murray said.

The proclamation states: "Laguna Beach is familiar with the fragile areas located within its boundaries and has fought for a way to preserve them and at the same time acknowledge the concept of urban growth.

"Laguna Beach recognizes its place among those cities, towns, states and nations worldwide who seek to join together in union and harmony in furtherance of John McConnell's vision for the protection of planet earth."

In keeping with his vision, Murray's gallery will sponsor an Earth Day potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. Monday, open to the public, accompanied by video documentaries and an exclusive videotaped interview with McConnell.

Murray and filmmaker Earl Richmond planned to meet with McConnell, 90, in Denver on March 15 and interview him for the Laguna event.

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