Unearth Day: Digging in the Dirt

“The case for ‘Unearth Day'” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (April 21, 2010).

This week, as folks around the globe celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I propose that we establish an offshoot movement to be known as “Unearth Day.”

Earth Day, which is Thursday, gives voice to the planet. It’s a call to both protect and preserve it, challenging us to come to an understanding of how the Earth and the people who live off of it can coexist to the mutual benefit of both – a noble and important mission indeed, and one that is often necessarily political in its focus.

As Earth Day’s counterpart, Unearth Day could complement the 40-year-old grassroots environmental movement by literally getting children into the grass and the roots. This movement has been growing for a while now; getting kids back to nature is now a trendy theme being tackled by publishers, environmental nonprofits, and soapbox do-gooders. Let me join them on the soapbox, but suggest a much more practical and down-to-earth approach.

Let the children unearth the earth! While there are many things to protect our children from these days, I suggest that dirt is not one of them.

My six brothers and I grew up in the dirt – whether our mother liked it or not. Be it digging for dinosaur bones like budding paleontologists, ceremonially burying a departed bird or squirrel found nearby, or attempting to tunnel our way to China, we ensured that our yard featured an ever-expanding series of ditches. The back yard inflicted its share of sprained ankles as a result, but nothing more insidious than that.

Often, our yard showed more brown than it did green, as mud-sliding in April showers and an assortment of sports throughout the summer beat the grass into submission.

The earth didn’t seem to mind, though I have a feeling today’s “Purell parents” would.

Dare to overturn a rock and uncover a gathering of creepy crawlies? “Don’t touch that!” Out comes the hand-sanitizer.

Dare to run and slide in the muddy grass? “Get in here!” Out come the bleach and laundry detergent.

Dare to step off the sidewalk and into the treacherous unknown once called the ground? “Get over here. That’s not our property. And look at your new shoes!”

Dare to bring a coffee can filled with newly captured bugs into the home? “Aaaaaa!” Might as well dial 911.

To combat this attitude, drastic measures are needed. I suggest that Unearth Day be launched in full force immediately. A cute little earthworm could serve as the new holiday’s spokes-critter. Give him a Cockney accent: ” ‘Ello, kiddies. I’m here to tell you about dirt. I play in it all day. I eat the stuff, too. Why not give it a go?”

Yes, let’s give it a go! Changing hearts and minds, one Purell parent at a time, let’s remember what lies beneath our sidewalks and driveways. Venture off the concrete and into the uncharted territory of the dirt.

You might just be surprised what you unearth.

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