Happy 420 Earth Day: Get Stoned, Make Art, Save the Planet
Happy 420 Earth Day: Get Stoned, Make Art, Save the Planet
You’re cruising over the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco, windows down, 60 m.p.h., and the entire Pacific Ocean smells like a Phish “Makisupa Policeman” set 1 opener.
It’s 4/20 at 4:20 — that moment every stoner in the Cosmos simultaneously sparks up like it’s Pothead New Year.
But why 420? How did that numeral uno become a weed mascot for the world?
Nope, 420’s not police code for a pot bust.
At 20 after 4, the entire world doesn’t spark up on cue because if you multiply Dylan’s Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 “everybody must get stoned.” (You’re high — but congratulations you can still do 5th grade math.) 420 isn’t the number of chemical compounds in a cannabis bud. (That’s close to the general range, but who’s counting? 401, 402…) And it’s got nothing to do with Hitler’s birthday — though we’ll take any excuse to fumigate Nazi fuck boy energy in billows of weed smoke, especially these days.
420 began as the phrase “420 Louie” — code for the Waldos to meet by the Louis Pasteur statue outside their high school at 4:20 and toke up to high heaven. The Waldos were a gang of teenagers — Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich — who coined 420 in 1971 sometime during the weed harvest.
“We got tired of the Friday-night football scene with all of the jocks,” Dave Reddix told TIME in 2017. “We were the guys sitting under the stands smoking a doobie, wondering what we were doing there.”
Grateful Dead Goonies Make Pothead History
The quintet somehow found a pirate treasure map that supposedly led to a crop of abandoned cannabis plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. The Waldos chased a dream, meeting at 4:20 each afternoon to load into a 1966 Chevy Impala and smoke joints into the sunset, looking for the ganja garden at the end of the rainbow. It was like a stoner version of The Goonies.
They never did find the long lost stash — it’s the journey, not the destination. But the Waldos did coin the perfect buzz word to hide reefer references from teachers, parents, and guidance counselors on the downlow.
As legend would have it, one of the Waldos’ fathers helped the Grateful Dead with real estate; another had a brother tight with Phil Lesh. The group had all-access backstage passes to Dead shows and got high with the band and crew.
“There was a place called Winterland, and we’d always be backstage running around or on stage and, of course, we’re using those phrases,” Steve Capper, one of the original Waldos, told the Huffington Post. “When somebody passes a joint or something, ‘Hey, 420.’ So it started spreading through that community.”
Like a blazing spliff, 420 passed into reefer culture. It’s a time of day, a pothead holiday, a state of the green mind — stoner tea time.
Earth Day — 4/20’s Second Cousin
4/20’s also two days shy of Earth Day — the other green holiday invented by hippies. The two are highly related, no pun intended.
Both celebrate chlorophyll, one a green herb, the other the green environment. And if you do it right, smoking any herb should bring you in touch with nature to become intimately connected to the Earth.
420 and Earth Day are also celebrations of herbal science — and science just so happens to be stoned off its gourd.
Don’t believe me? Consider this high as fuck environmental fact:
“Around 20-50% of the Earth’s oxygen is produced by diatoms,” Sarah Webb, a biologist and associate professor of life science at Arkansas State University-Newport, told Live Science. “Diatoms are microscopic algae with a shell made of glass. They look like stained glass when viewed under a microscope.”
Dude, science is a trip machine. Pass the munchies.
Gaylord of the Rings
Another stoned out environmental fact? If it wasn’t for an ad guru, we’d be celebrating the “Global Environmental Teach In” every April 22, as first proposed by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970.
Despite a name straight out of Lord of the Rings, Gaylord did not exactly have a spin with words.
Realizing that name wasn’t catching on, Gaylord and activist Denis Hayes brought in Julien Koenig, whose campaign for Volkswagen, “Think Small,” was later cited by Advertising Age as the “greatest advertising campaign of the 20th century.” They bought a full-page in the Sunday New York Times opinion section and Earth Day was born.
Earth Day went global in 1990 and became a world phenomenon, which makes sense since saving the globe is kinda the point of it all.
How Stoner Art Can Save the Planet
It’s easy to get depressed about the planet these days. You don’t need that GreenPeace clipboard guy to tell you we’re fucked. Where’s the hope in Earth Day drum circles, climate summits, and virtual marches if the koala bears are already on fire?
But in actuality, humanity’s never been better positioned to save the planet from itself than right now.
We’re finally growing more trees — thanks to conservation and sustainable lumbering practices. In fact, “the average standing wood volume per acre in US forests is about one-third greater today than in 1952; in the East, average volume per acre has almost doubled,” according to a report released by the Food and Agricultural Organisation.
And the ozone layer is actually recovering — possibly thanks to the international ban on chlorofluorocarbons. NASA has found there is 20% less ozone depletion in the Antarctic winter than 2005 when measurements began.
For the first time, renewable energy has become cheaper than fossil fuels. We’ve finally got a President who prioritizes the environment and taking meaningful action toward its protection. Committed to the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, Biden intends to invest $400 billion over 10 years in clean energy research and innovation.
And most importantly, art and love can raise awareness for change.
“Time and apathy are the biggest challenges we face in the race against climate change,” the BBC quotes acclaimed photographer Michel Comte. “Arts and culture possess an unique power to inspire and to shake up, to share ideas and to unite in a common cause.”
Art and love can save the world. That’s why it’s perfectly righteous to celebrate Earth Day two days after 420: Get stoned, fall in love with life, ice cream, and chocolate — then go save the Earth.
Because if we don’t, who will? 4/22, Louie — meet me by the Pasteur statue. The planet won’t save itself. Nobody’s coming to save us, but us.
Artwork by Peruvian artist Luis Tamani
A freelance writer for hire, Matt Gallagher is the face and voice behind Web Copy Magician. He enjoys Bear Blend as a tea to spiritually reconnect with nature and the therapeutic wonders of chlorophyll.
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