The average mean temperature on April 22 in Suffolk County over the last 10 years was 52.3 degrees, according to Weather Underground. Assuming the April showers are over, this means that the weather on Earth Day is usually pleasant.
Contrast that with Tu B’Shvat, commonly called the Jewish New Year for Trees, which this year falls on Jan. 31. According to Weather Underground, Stony Brook will experience a sunny day with a high of 29 degrees and 9 mph winds. Not as pleasant, as days dedicated to celebrate Earth go.
There is a discussion as to why the New Year for Trees was scheduled (by God, no less) at a time when virtually no growth occurs and it is generally unpleasant to be outside, especially considering that Ashkenazi Jews lived in Europe and Russia where it is typically cold.
One answer given is that the time when we don’t see growth — a time when to go out and commune with nature rather than sit in our heated homes is most undesirable — is the time to feel appreciation for the world we have been given, its vegetation and that which we reap.
On Earth Day, besides the fairs and farmers markets, people celebrate by recycling, using alternative transportation and building bird feeders. For the last two years, Stony Brook has celebrated Earthstock, a weeklong event with lectures, interactive events and food. On Tu B’Shvat, Jews customarily eat lots of fruit — this is how many Jewish children learn to dislike carob — and collect money to plant trees (or just plant trees). Some have a Tu B’Shvat seder, where they eat from the seven “fruits” of Israel (wheat, barley, grape, fig, pomegranate, olive (oil) and date (honey)) and say Kabbalistic prayers declaring the holiness of fruits, vegetables and grain.
There are more holidays that celebrate and raise awareness for our planet, like Fossil Fools Day on April 1 and Junk Mail Awareness Week the first week of October. While national and international days are usually silly — Jan. 29 is National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day — some of these commemorations can bring to light habits we have that hurt our environment and can teach us to better maintain our planet’s health.
Nowadays, it’s easy to politicize anything and criticize anyone. Now there are going to be tariffs on imported solar panels. Now there is a five cent charge for plastic bags in Suffolk County. The list could literally go on ad infinitum. But whatever it is, I believe I speak for Dr. Seuss’ Lorax when I say that every person can help in some way, no matter how small.
So regardless of who you are, eat a fruit on Jan. 31. Think about something you could do for your plant neighbors and go out and do it. Repeat this on Feb. 1. And on the second. There are still plenty of ways to help the environment without braving the moderately cold weather. Let’s celebrate our vast web of connections with the trees, flowers and ferns. Let’s continue our symbiotic relationship until our planet dies a natural death at a very old age.
Every day is Earth Day.