Another Unconventional Earth Day

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Does it seem to you that Earth Day this year is particularly significant? Earth Day has been celebrated for decades with local events serving to educate the public about conserving the world’s natural resources. Having been in charge of a large Earth Day event myself, I know how important and rewarding these events are to those who attend them. I strongly urge you to seek one out if you haven’t had the pleasure before.
But something else is going on this year. Organizations that had previously focused on education are turning to advocacy. An international march, centering around the National Mall, is scheduled for this year’s Earth Day, April 22. Called March for Science, the event hopes to reach government officials with the message that science needs to be a factor in the development of legislation. A noble message indeed.
I hate to break it to them. Government has a habit of using science when it suits them and ignoring science when economics or political standing is threatened. Science suits them when new and “better” weapons of war must be created. Not so much when a wall must be built without regard to the local ecosystem (ooh, did I just say that?). I truly wish the marchers luck in their goal.
Whether you plan to spend your Earth Day in education or advocacy or both, there is nothing more worthy. Or is there? I argue there is, and this other option can achieve both education and advocacy in the long run.
My sixth-grade school (I went to a lot of schools growing up) was awesome. A “pod layout” school, the classroom environment was designed for students to learn and achieve goals at their own pace. I remember thriving in the freedom, given the independence to grow. What was incredibly effective, at least for that age, was that we were guided in discovering knowledge through experience, not lectures, not assignments, not homework. We actually DID stuff. I studied crayfish behavior. I wrote a science fiction book. I educated others about the dangers of pollution. The things we did in sixth grade were not typical of any of the other schools I ever went to, and those experiences shaped me in ways that stick with me to this day.
Why am I telling you about my sixth-grade experience? This is the kind of activity that is worthier than most Earth Day activities. The opportunity to do something that will make a difference – in your own life, in your environment, in the lives of your loved ones – is extraordinarily powerful and has ultimately more impact. By all means, learn everything you can about climate change, endangered species, and solar power. By all means, do march and tell your legislators how to set policy. These are vital activities. But this Earth Day, find something you can participate in that will transform you and will make a positive impact on the earth. And make it a regular habit.
The summer after high school, I got a seasonal job with the Youth Conservation Corps. We maintained trails, built sidewalks, picked up garbage, repaired park infrastructure, and at the same time learned about ecosystems, native plants, and the importance of waterways. In just three months of hard work and inspiring lessons from our supervisor, I developed a life-long desire to keep learning and doing things for our environment.
If you are a regular Apocalypse Observer reader, you may remember I’ve written a few posts about trash pickup and recycling, and so has C. Henry Martens, for that matter. If you don’t know where to start, do a search for Earth Day events in your area. Wildlife refuges especially seem to have cleanups, native plantings, and noxious weed pullings. You can also look for events at parks, zoos, and other environmental organizations. Another fun and useful event is a BioBlitz. If you can find one of those, do it!
If you have done these kinds of activities, please tell us about what you did and how it impacted you. Also, share with us what you have planned for Earth Day this year.

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