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Zero Emissions Day
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ZeDay on September 21
About Zero Emissions Day
On March 21, 2008, a Website calling for a "A Global Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Combustion on September 21" was launched from Sealevel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The message, "Giving our planet one day off a year", was simple yet profound. For true global reach the moratorium call was translated into 12 languages with assistance from Han Vermeulen and Anett C. Oelschlaegel at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany (Dutch, German, Russian), and Ramzi and Linda Kawar in Halifax (Arabic).

The initial inspiration for this actually happened 20+ years earlier. One day Ken Wallace of Sealevel Special Projects, was strolling his new born daughter past a nasty idling truck parked – driverless – by the neighbourhood pizzeria. This truck in combination with the surrounding unrelenting traffic swirling by gave rise to a strange epiphany: "Stopping all this for a bit would be most excellent for our world altogether."

How could one initiate such an event? In the 1980s Usenet was emerging as an early Internet discussion system and after a logistics meeting with friends, a carefully composed "message of great importance" was posted to Usenet through a computer at Dalhousie University. Not much came of it at the time, still the idea stuck and – with the emergence of Internet social networks in the new millennium – the notion of creating a global celebration that had potential for universal benefit seemed a real possibility.

In North America we'd largely eliminated the "day of rest" inherited from centuries old tradition. The notion that stopping, resting, recharging and reflecting was no doubt a mechanism built into many world cultures and traditions. By 2008 it was no longer a question of simply appeasing the Gods however, it seemed that indeed all systems might now be in jeopardy if we failed to comply with this timeless wisdom.

In March 2008, the Zero Emissions Day facebook group was created and rapidly was endorsed an impressive international circle including Canadian Anthropologist Wade Davis and more recently, American environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, author, Paul Hawken.

In July we created an facebook event page for September 21.

A year earlier, Bill Koeb, an artist living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina had registered the domain "zeroemissionsday" with much the same inspiration. Through kind collaboration with Ken in Halifax, the global call to stop soon would be accessed online at zeroemissionsday.org.

2008 had witnessed the establishment of a name (and an active Internet domain name), Zero Emissions Day, a focus on the cessation of burning fossil fuels, a date September 21st (far to both North and South hemispheres and coinciding with the United Nations International Day of Peace), and four simple guidelines everyone could follow. The potential for a global and meaningful transcultural celebration had been created.

Subsequent to the United States presidential election, Ken wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on December 21, 2008, outlining the Zero Emissions Day meme and recommending his office participate. Several positive form letters from info@change.gov were received in return.

The true test for what people were starting to call "ZeDay" came when one actually tried to follow the guidelines for 24 hours. Everyone noted that the tendency to automatically turn things on – or jump in the car and start it – was rather hard to shake. On the other hand, many reported that the experience of going a day without using fossil fuel energy was profoundly transformative.

In the spring of 2009, zeroemissionsday.org was rebuilt as a Web 2.0 app. Translations were expanded to 33 languages, with kind assistance from Renee M. Rivas and Juan B Alvarez in Madrid (Spanish). The message was direct and bolded, "You have the power to benefit everyone and everything on our planet." On March 20 a Press Release was issued. In April 2009, @ZeDay took to Twitter, and Dave Sag, the founder of Carbon Planet summed up ZeDay on his blog:
What a great idea. Much like the annual Buy Nothing Day, or the more commercial, and if you ask me rather pointless, Earth Hour, this is a simple call for collective action to take some of the pressure off our dying world. It's important because it shows us what a day without fossil fuel use can feel like, and it's not that bad.
In August ZeDay was defined in the Urban Dictionary.

In January 2010, ZeDay.org was registered (to coexist with the longer domain name). The website was dramtically simplified to one page. The language translations, though well intentioned had become unwieldy. The Google Translation service had grown to almost 60 languages, and while not perfect was indeed very practical. The Web 2.0 app was overbuilt and undersubscribed so would be temporarily abandoned.

The first annual Zero Emissions Day theme was introduced: "Buddy Up" – share ZeDay with a friend or friends. All subsequent themes would build on this. While observing ZeDay can be deeply personal, getting together with others and going "cold turkey" together can be not only fun but magic as well it was found out.

In January 2010, a short ZeDay video was posted to YouTube:

The ROSE (RECYCLING OIL SAVES THE ENVIRONMENT) REPORT (PDF) from the Rose Foundation in South Africa featured Zero Emissions Day in a list of 2010 Environmental Dates.

In June, Zero Emissions Day is featured and linked to in the London School of Economics Green News.

In August 2010, ZeDay was presented at PechaKucha 5 in Halifax. This presentation with commentary can be found here.

Also in 2010, Zero Emissions Day was included in the IPS Inter Press Service publication Biodiversity Reporting Guidelines (PDF) under Dates of importance. And Zero Emissions Day was featured and linked to in THE GREEN LIFE INITIATIVE BLOG from Bangalore, India: Heads Up! September’s Upcoming Green Days

In 2011, the Zero Emissions Day theme was "Get Creative" – discover ways to enjoy the day without using fossil fuels. In the spring Zero Emissions Day was included in events listings Scottish Power's Green Issue 10 (PDF).

In August 2011, Zero Emission NEPAL formed on facebook based on the ZeDay model and inspired by the harsh realities of global warming in the Himalaya region.

In 2012, the Zero Emissions Day theme was "Reboot" – Shut down everything non-essential powered by fossil fuels for a day – press reset — and then start up fresh. In 2013 the theme was “Potluck your Park.” We're finding that more and more people, families and communities are declaring Zero Emissions Days whenever they please and just for the fun of it. While the response to ZeDay is largely coming from the worldwide environmental movement, it should not be overlooked that Zero Emissions Day is just as much a social movement.

Plan to join us in 2014! Every individual's effort on Zero Emissions Day is what counts!

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A Sealevel Special Project 2013-09-22