CONTACT IN SAN FRANCISCO: NATICA ANGILLY OR JOHN McCONNELL
ARTISTS EMBASSY INTERNATIONAL
TELEPHONE: (415) 681-0618
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JOHN MCCONNELL WEBSITE: www.earthsite.org

 

THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF EARTH DAY WILL BE OBSERVED AT THE UNITED NATIONS WITH A PEACE BELL CEREMONY ON MARCH 20


New York - The thirtieth anniversary of Earth Day will be observed at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Monday, March 20, the first day of spring (Nature's Day) in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. At exactly 2:35 AM EST, the moment of the vernal equinox, the Peace Bell will be rung at the UN in New York by Austrian Ambassador Gerhard Pfanzelter, followed by two minutes of silent prayer or meditation. In San Francisco, where Earth Day was founded, bells will ring at11:35 PM (spring equinox) on Sunday, March 19.

Simultaneously, at the exact moment of the vernal equinox when night and day are equal all over the world, the UN Peace Bell will be rung by TYS Lama Gangchen, a world renowned Tibetan Lama and healer of the Lama Gangchen World Peace Foundation at 8:35 AM (local time) on March 20 in Vienna, Austria. Celebrations will take place in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and many other cities and towns in the country, starting on March 20. At exactly 9:35 AM (local time), the moment of the spring equinox in Lithuania, the Peace Bell will be rung at Vilnius Bernardine Monastery. "Strokes of it will express our solidarity with the UN Peace Bell and other nations in order to share common concerns on deepening environmental problems and our commitment to create a sustainable society," says the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment.

According to John McConnell, the 84-year old founder of Earth Day, "this global holiday is based on a natural event - the first day of spring and brings together people of every creed and culture. It calls attention to its Earth Trustee message, 'seek peace, justice and the care of Earth.' People worldwide are invited to spread the word. On Earth Day, think and talk about how you can make this a better world for everyone. Everyone knows at least one thing they can do," says Mr. McConnell.

This year's UN Peace Bell ceremony will commemorate not only the thirtieth anniversary of the first Earth Day, but two major UN themes for the Year 2000: the International Year for the Culture of Peace initiated by UNESCO and the International Year of Thanksgiving with emphasis on the act of giving and the importance of cultural diversity in developing a rich and harmonious international life. The UN event will be produced by the Earth Society Foundation founded by John McConnell and Margaret Mead, the late world renowned anthropologist. The Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations will be the official sponsor. In addition, Artists Embassy International, a non-governmental organization in San Francisco, birthplace of Earth Day, will provide cooperation and cultural support.

In Vilnius, a city rich in history, culture and nature, a full schedule of activities has been organized by the Vilnius Ethnical Activity Centre according to Algis Tomas Geniusas, President of the United Nations Association of Lithuania and professor at Vilnius University (Kaunas) and Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Members of UNA-Lithuania will be attending this global event called "Pasaulio Zemes Diena" in Lithuanian. Dr. Geniusas, a Shakespeare scholar and member of the International Federation of Free Journalists, reports this year's organizing committee consists of representatives of the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment, the Vilnius City Municipality and the Vilnius Ethnical Activity Centre.

Highlighting this annual event will be the raising of the Earth Flag in front of the Lithuanian Parliament building on Independence Square, accompanied by the sounds of the spring equinox bell on March 20 says the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment. Speeches by high level officials such as President Valdas Adamkus, Chairman of the Parliament (Seimas) Vytautas Landsbergis, Mayor of Vilnius Juozas Imbrasas and Minister of Environment, Danius Lygis, are expected to follow. Earth Month will continue throughout March, and end on April 22, 2000 in Lithuania.

Mrs. Egle Plioliene, Director of the Centre says, "this year's theme will be on planting many new trees and helping old ones, as well as making and putting up bird houses. There will also be clean-up campaigns and a children's art competition based on the theme of nature. The Lithuanian project dedicated to Earth Day, the International Children's Drawing and Poster Contest "Nature's Fairytale" 2000 Homeland aims to encourage young people to be creative, to foster their cultural activities, and help them see the aesthetic values in nature.

The San Francisco-based Artists Embassy International, which promotes peace through the arts, will exchange children's art and music provided by students living in the United States with Lithuanian children as part of its I CARE (International Children's Art Resource Exchange), the youth division of AEI. Founded by the late Althya Clark Youngman in 1951, Artists Embassy International participated in the first Earth Day on March 21,1970 in the City of San Francisco, birthplace of the United Nations.

This year the 30th anniversary of Earth Day will be observed in San Francisco with the ringing of church bells at St. Boniface Church and John McConnell, the founder of Earth Day, ringing a bell at The National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi at precisely11:35 PM (spring equinox) on Sunday, March19. Bells will also ring in AEI's Richmond Center. A Proclamation signed by Mayor Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. will designate March 19 as Earth Day in San Francisco.

A culturally diverse group of 24 third grade students (ages 8-9) from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in Oakland, California are really excited about exchanging art and music with Lithuanian children, says teacher Marian Wilson. These students whose families come from such faraway places as Asia, Africa, Central America, Mexico and elsewhere have expressed a fondness and appreciation for learning, adds Arnett Jones, principal. Words and music from the AEI "One World Anthem" by Katherine Whiteside Taylor will be exchanged with Lithuanian children. The children's drawings will be presented to Mr. McConnell during his trip to San Francisco.

"This historic Earth Day in the year of Millennial change focuses attention on San Francisco where Earth Day began on March 21, 1970," says Mr. McConnell. "St. Francis, for whom San Francisco was named, was the inspiration for Earth Day. By his words and actions, St. Francis inspired efforts for peace and love of nature," he adds. The idea to celebrate Earth Day on the spring equinox was presented by John McConnell at a UNESCO Conference on the Environment in San Francisco during 1969, the same year in which he designed the Earth Flag.

According to Natica Angilly, President of Artists Embassy International, "AEI unveiled the model of a projected 10 foot high bronze statue of St. Francis by sculptor Harriet Moore on Earth Day 1995. For his love of nature, St. Francis has been called the father of the environmental movement, a poet who praised all creation and lived a life of compassion for humanity and social justice." Natica Angilly recently announced (just in time for Earth Day 2000) that one of Althya Clark Youngman's greatest dreams in environmental art will finally be realized. The long-awaited statue of St. Francis, one of the first environmentalists, and founder of the Franciscan Order, will be completed by sculptor Harriet Moore and installed in Assisi, Italy in June 2001, as part of the AEI, with the Sister City program.

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By Ann Charles

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