Week-long activities to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in the United States have kicked off with an eco-village on the National Mall and green volunteer service around national monuments.
An official with the National Mall and Memorial Parks, Donna Locks-Lewis, rallied volunteers to begin mulching around the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial.
Others raked, did some weeding or picked up trash. One of the volunteers, Wright Sigmund, took time from his busy work in commercial real estate to help.
The fifth-generation Washingtonian said even monuments need environmental help. "Over the course of the years, the National Parks service, there has been a huge deficit in their ability to work on projects to restore areas such as the Lincoln Memorial, which every year is sinking into the ground. When you walk around the National Mall, you see the grass is all torn up. Everything that should be the most beautiful landmark of our country is just falling apart," he said.
On the National Mall, artistic globes depicting the earth's environmental problems and possible solutions lined walkways.
Companies, embassies, government agencies and activists set up tents to promote products and programs.
A scientist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Ruth Netting, set up a puzzle made up of satellite images. "This is our earth. This is our planet earth and we should take care of it. Young kids like here, they are getting excited about it and hopefully they will learn and take care of the planet earth that they live on," she said.
Historical footage also played on a big screen, including a speech about environmental problems, such as pollution, by former President Richard Nixon.
"It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans because they more than we will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now if we are to prevent disasters later," he said in one speech.
Earth Day was initiated by a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, as an environmental teach-in. The first event which took place on April 22, 1970, turned into a massive protest in which millions of Americans took part demanding government action to help stop environmental degradation.
Activities this week on the National Mall will culminate with a rally and celebrity-filled concert on April 25th demanding Congress pass climate legislation to create green jobs and cap carbon emissions.