Arbor Day

It’s a special day for action in countries throughout the world. It is a symbolic day celebrated on different days in different countries depending on local conditions. While Arbor Day is not one of the major holidays in the U.S. or in many countries, its importance has become of increasing importance as climate concerns have increased.

The first documented Arbor Day was held in 1594 in Spain. The first tree planted was a poplar tree. In the U.S., the first Arbor Day was initiated by J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska. On April 10, 1872, one million trees were planted across the state of Nebraska.

The American Forestry Association advocated making Arbor Day a national day for planting trees. In 1832, schools across the country began giving children a sapling to take home to plant. Twenty years later, Arbor Day was celebrated in every state4 but Delaware. Similar efforts spread to other countries.

Theodore Roosevelt, a strong conservationist, issued an Arbor Day proclamation for children which read:

“It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetimes, the Nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplies and man so thoughtlessly destroyed.”

While President Nixon is known mostly for the Watergate Scandal, his presidency led to a number of environmental-friendly initiatives including the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Along with these actions was an increased emphasis on Arbor Day.

The words of President Roosevelt are prophetic today: “…for within your lifetime, the Nation’s need for trees will become serious.” As we face an uncertain future due to climate change, the importance of trees has become more important as a way to absorb CO2.

What began in 1594 has become even more important nearly 4.5 centuries later. Unfortunately, few Americans can even tell you the date of Arbor Day. In the U.S. it’s the last Friday in April. While most federal holidays in America have become associated with social gatherings, with significant carbon footprints, the one holiday that could reduce carbon levels is hardly recognized.

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“Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.” – J. Sterling Morton

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