ARBOR DAY – WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

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ARBOR DAY – WHAT IS IT ABOUT?

Why do we celebrate Arbor Day?   Why is it so special and important?   How can it be supported and is it worldwide?

Arbor Day is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees. Today, many countries observe such a holiday. Though usually observed in the spring, the date varies, depending on climate and suitable planting season.

The small Spanish village of Villanueva de la Sierra is the town where was held the first Arbor Day around the world, an initiative launched in 1805 by the local priest with the enthusiastic support of the entire population.

While Napoleon was ravaging Europe with his ambition in this village in the Sierra de Gata lived a priest, Don Ramón Vacas Roxo, which, according to the chronicles, “convinced of the importance of trees for health, hygiene, decoration, nature, environment and customs, decides to plant trees and give a festive air. The festival began on Carnival Tuesday with the ringing of two bells of the church, and the Middle and the Big. After the Mass, and even coated with church ornaments, don Ramón, accompanied by clergies, teachers and a large number of neighbors, planted the first tree, a poplar, in the place known as Valley of the Ejido. Tree plantations continued by Arroyada and Fuente de la Mora. Afterwards, there was a feast, and did not miss the dance. The party and plantations lasted three days. He drafted a manifesto in defense of the trees that was sent to surrounding towns to spread the love and respect for nature, and also he advised to make tree plantations in their localities.

The first American Arbor Day was originated in Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton. On April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in Nebraska.

Birdsey Northrop of Connecticut was responsible for globalizing it when he visited Japan in 1883 and delivered his Arbor Day and Village Improvement message. In that same year, the American Forestry Association made Northrop the Chairman of the committee to campaign for Arbor Day nationwide. He also brought his enthusiasm for Arbor Day to Australia, Canada, and Europe

Beginning in 1906, Pennsylvania conservationist Major Israel McCreight of DuBois, Pennsylvania, argued that President Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation speeches were limited to businessmen in the lumber industry and recommended a campaign of youth education and a national policy on conservation education. McCreight urged President Roosevelt to make a public statement to school children about trees and the destruction of American forests. Conservationist Gifford Pinchot, Chief of the United States Forest Service, embraced McCreight’s recommendations and asked the President to speak to the public school children of the United States about conservation. On April 15, 1907, Roosevelt issued an “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States” about the importance of trees and that forestry deserves to be taught in U.S. schools. Pinchot wrote McCreight, “we shall all be indebted to you for having made the suggestion.”

National Schools Tree Day is held on the last Friday of July for schools and National Tree Day the last Sunday in July throughout Australia. Many states have Arbor Day although only Victoria has Arbor Week, which was suggested by Premier Dick Hamer in the 1980’s. Arbor Day has been observed in Australia since June 20, 1889.

In Belgium, International Day of Tree planting is celebrated in Flanders on or around March 21st as a theme-day/educational-day/observance, not as public holidays. Tree planting is sometimes combined with awareness campaigns of the fight against cancer: Kom Op Tegen Kanker.

In Brazil, Arbor Day (Dia da Árvore) is celebrated on September 21. It’s not a national holiday. However, schools nationwide celebrate this day with environment-related activities, namely tree planting.

Arbour Day is celebrated on November 22nd. It is sponsored by the National Parks Trust of the British Virgin Islands. Activities include an annual national Arbour Day Poetry Competition and tree planting ceremonies throughout the territory.

National Tree Planting Day is on June 1st. Cambodia celebrates an arbor day on July 9th.   Founded by Don Clark of Schomberg, Ontario for his wife Margret Clark in 1906. Canada Maple Leaf Day falls on the last Wednesday in September during National Forest Week. Ontario celebrates Arbor Week from the last Friday in April to the first Sunday in May. Nova Scotia celebrates Arbor Day on the Thursday during National Forest Week, which is the first full week in May. Prince Edward Island celebrates Arbor Day on the 3rd Friday in May during Arbor Week.

In 1981, the fourth session of the Fifth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China adopted the Resolution on the Unfolding of a Nationwide Voluntary Tree-planting Campaign. This resolution established the Arbor Day and stipulated that every able-bodied citizen between the ages of 11 and 60 should plant three to five trees per year or do the equivalent amount of work in seedling, cultivation, tree tending or other services. Supporting documentation instructs all units to report population statistics to the local afforestation committees as the basis for workload allocation. Moreover, those failing to do their duty are expected to make up planting requirements, provide funds equivalent to the value of labor required or pay heavy fines. Therefore, the tree-planting campaign is actually compulsory or at least obligatory (that is, an obligation to the community). The “voluntary” in the title referred to the fact that the tree-planters would “volunteer” their labour. The People’s Republic of China celebrates Arbor Day on March 12th, a day founded by Lin Daoyang, continue to use following the date of Arbor Day of Republic of China.

In Germany Arbor Day (“Tag des Baumes”) is on April 25. The first celebration was in 1952.

Van Mahotsav is an annual pan-Indian tree planting festival, occupying a week in the month of July. During this event millions of trees are planted. It was initiated in 1950 by K. M. Munshi, the then Union Minister for Agriculture and Food to create an enthusiasm in the mind of the populace for the conservation of forests and planting of trees.   The name Van Mahotsava (the festival of trees) originated in July 1947 after a successful tree-planting drive was undertaken in Delhi, in which national leaders participated. Paryawaran Sachetak Samiti, a leading environmental organization conducts mass events & concrete activities on this special day celebration each year. The week was simultaneously celebrated in a number of states in the country.

In Iran it is known as National Tree Planting Day. By Solar Hijri calendar, it is on the 15th day of month Esfand which usually corresponds with March 5th.   This day is the first day of the Natural Recyclable Resources week (March 5th to 12th). This is the time in which the saplings of the all kinds in terms of different climates of different parts of Iran would be shared among the people. They also are going to be taught the ways of planting trees.

The Jewish holiday Tu Bishvat, the New Year for trees, is on the 15th day of the month of Shvat, which usually falls in January or February. Originally based on the date used to calculate the age of fruit trees for tithing as mandated in Leviticus 19:23–25, the holiday now is most often observed by planting trees, or raising money to plant trees. Tu Bishvat is a semi-official holiday in Israel, schools are open but Hebrew speaking schools will often go on tree planting excursions.

Japan celebrates a similarly themed Greenery Day, held on May 4th. Although it has a similar theme to Arbor Day, its roots lie in celebration of the birthday of Emperor Hirohito.

In Luxembourg, National Tree Planting Day is in November since 1991. It is organized by natur&ëmwelt.

Having in mind the bad condition of the forest fund, and in particular the catastrophic wildfires which occurred in the summer of 2007, a citizen’s initiative for afforestation was started in the Republic of Macedonia. The campaign by the name ‘Tree Day-Plant Your Future’ was first organized on March 12 2008, when an official non-working day was declared and more than 150,000 Macedonians planted 2 million trees in one day (symbolically, one for each citizen). Six million more were planted in November the same year, and another 12.5 million trees in 2009. This has been established as a tradition and takes place every year.

Since conference and of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s publication World Festival of Trees, and a resolution of the United Nations in 1954: “The Conference, recognizing the need of arousing mass consciousness of the aesthetic, physical and economic value of trees, recommends a World Festival of Trees to be celebrated annually in each member country on a date suited to local conditions”; it has been adopted by the Netherlands. In 1957, the National Committee Day of Planting Trees/Foundation of National Festival of Trees was created.   On the third Wednesday in March each year (near the spring equinox), three quarters of Dutch schoolchildren aged 10/11 and Dutch celebrities plant trees. Stichting Nationale Boomfeestdag organizes all the activities in the Netherlands for this day. Some municipalities however plant the trees around September 21st because of the planting season. In 2007, the 50th anniversary was celebrated with special golden jubilee-activities.

New Zealand’s first Arbor Day planting was in Greytown on 3 July 3, 1890. The first official celebration took place in Wellingtgon in August 2012, with the planting of pohutukawa and Norfolk pines along Thorndon Esplanade. Schools in New Zealand have long planted native trees on Arbor Day.   Since 1977, New Zealand has celebrated Arbor Day on June 5th, which is also World Environment Day, prior to then Arbor Day, in New Zealand, was celebrated on August 4th – which is rather late in the year for tree planting in New Zealand hence the date change.

What the Department of Conservation (DOC) does for Arbor Day: Many of DOC’s Arbor Day activities focus on ecological restoration projects using native plants to restore habitats that have been damaged or destroyed by humans or invasive pests and weeds. There are great restoration projects underway around New Zealand and many organizations including community groups, landowners, conservation organizations, iwi, volunteers, schools, local businesses, nurseries and councils are involved in them. These projects are part of a vision to protect and restore the indigenous biodiversity.

Arbor Day in the Philippines has been institutionalized to be observed every June 25th throughout the nation by planting trees and ornamental plants and other forms of relevant activities. The necessity to promote a healthier ecosystem for the people through the rehabilitation and regreening of the environment was stressed in Proclamation No. 643 that amended Proclamation No. 396 of June 2, 2003. Proclamation No. 396 enjoined the “active participation of all government agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations, private sector, schools, civil society groups and the citizenry in tree planting activity and declaring June 25, 2003 as Philippines Arbor Day.”

In Poland, Arbor Day has been celebrated since 2002. Each year, on October 10th many people in Poland plant trees as well as participate in events organized by ecological foundations. Moreover, Polish Forest Inspectorates and schools give special lectures and lead ecological awareness campaigns.

Arbor Day was celebrated from 1945 until 2000 in South Africa, when the national government extended it to National Arbor Week, which lasts from September 1st – 7th. Two trees, one common and one rare, are highlighted to increase public awareness of indigenous trees, while various “greening” activities are undertaken by schools, businesses and other organizations.

Arbor Day has been a traditional holiday in the Republic of China since 1927. After the successful conclusion of the Northern Expedition, the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture and Minerals formally petitioned the Executive Yuan to establish Arbor Day to commemorate the passing of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Father of Modern China. He had been a major advocate of afforestation in his life, because it would increase people’s livelihoods. The Executive Yuan approved Arbor Day in the spirit of Dr. Sun that year and has since been.

In the United Kingdom, National Tree Week (since 1975) is a celebration that is the start of the winter tree planting season. Around a million trees are planted each year by schools, community organizations and local authorities.

 Kathy Kiefer

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