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Saving the Planet
One Day at a Time
By Karen Fanning

People gather by a 200-foot-wide by 30-foot-high san sculpture during Earth Day festivities last year. The sculpture was created on a beach in Islamorada, Florida.

Photo: AFP/Corbis

Did you know that 2.5 acres of rain forest disappear every second? Did you know that 1.1 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean drinking water? Did you know 80 percent of American streams are contaminated with steroids, antibiotics, and other drugs?

These alarming statistics have mobilized environmentalists around the world to call on ordinary citizens to help save our planet. In response, on April 22, an estimated 450 million people in 184 countries will celebrate Earth Day with rallies, cleanups, and concerts.

"Hundreds of millions of people come out on Earth Day," said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. "What happens to them the day after? Our mission is to transform people, especially children, into environmental citizens 365 days a year."

The Festivities
For their part, residents in Palo Alto, California, will rise and shine before daybreak for a sunrise ceremony celebrating nature. Earth Day festivities in Indianapolis, Indiana, will feature a fleet of spiffy alternative fuel vehicles, while the Chicago, Illinois, festival will spread the word about improving air and water quality. Down south, ocean lovers in St. Lucie County, Florida, are invited to an all-day beach cleanup party at several area resorts.

In Africa, children and adults in Kenya will participate in river clean-ups, while residents in Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, will plant trees. In Nepal, home to Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, environmental groups will sponsor a "car-free day" rally in the capital city of Kathmandu. Earth Day events in Warsaw, Poland, will focus on protecting threatened wildlife species.

Rogers hopes that people who participate in this year's Earth Day festivities will be inspired to make a lifelong commitment to saving the planet.

You don't need to be at a rally on Earth Day to make a difference. Kids can join Earth Day's global campaign without even leaving home.

"Kids can turn off water when they brush their teeth," says Rogers. "They can turn down the thermostat one degree and save a huge amount of energy. They can turn off the lights when they leave the room. Kids can also talk to their parents about having a car-free day."