Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Procession of the Species
Olympia, WA 2003

Today is Earth Day, an annual event which historically marked the launch of the "environmental movement" in 1970. Earth Day has become an international celebration, but was originally presented as an idea by a Wisconsin senator while visiting Seattle, WA, in 1969. Its significance remains much the same as when it was introduced: a day for which each person celebrates our natural environment and -- hopefully -- contemplates his or her role in its preservation.

The Pacific Northwest is known by most to be a "hotbed" of environmental justice activities as well as cultural awareness. It is no coincidence then, that the unveiling of Earth Day there 38 years ago was followed up with a wholly unique form of celebrating it. The event is called Procession of the Species, and it originated in my hometown (one of them, anyway) of Olympia, WA. "The Procession" is essentially a parade, marked by costumes that capture the essence of actual and occasionally mythical species. Self-made and astoundingly impressive, the costumes run from individual to multi-person creations a half a city block long. Cultural heritage is celebrated in many PacNW community events, and The Procession is no exception; it weaves elements of culture and dance into this celebration of life, as well. A few simple rules guide The Procession:
      • No written words
      • No live pets
      • No motorized vehicles
The Procession has inspired numerous similar processions and parades around the country, which is pretty neat. I think it would make for an interesting documentary to follow the spread of the event's influence. Undoubtedly, each city adds its own unique artistic spin to make it something special for them.

When I was attending college in Olympia, I lived downtown. My boyfriend and I would walk the few short blocks to a convenient corner on the parade route and delight in the beauty and creativity of not just our natural environment, but of those celebrating it as well. After all, we humans are a part of the procession of species, too...

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