Today in environmental history: It’s Arbor Day!

According to author Miguel Herrero Uceda, the first Arbor Day in the world was celebrated in the small Spanish village of Villanueva de la Sierra in 1805, with the planting of a poplar tree. The objective was to highlight the importance of trees for health, hygiene, beauty, nature and the environment. Over time the custom of planting trees as a cultural commitment spread to other localities and nations. Trees also bear much historical, cultural, folkloric and religious tradition.

The first American Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City, Neb. On April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in the state. 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, conservationist Major Israel McCreight of DuBois, Penn., argued that President Theodore Roosevelt‘s conservation speeches were limited to businessmen in the lumber industry. He recommended a campaign of youth education and a national policy on conservation education. Following that suggestion, on April 15, 1907, Roosevelt issued an “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States” about the importance of trees, and put forward the notion that forestry deserves to be taught in U.S. schools.

Arbor Day in the U.S. is celebrated on the last Friday of April. Observed in many countries still, it has the air of a quaint, innocuous old tradition, but it is a clear forerunner of the contemporary environmental movement. Trees are now understood to play a significant role in purifying the air of noxious pollutants, cooling the climate, retaining water in the soil, and providing much needed shade in our heavily concretized modern cities.

Adapted from Wikipedia


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.