An ode to Earth Day, with love from Alaska.
On this day in 1970, a collective of humans around the nation gathered in their respective regions to give voice to the modern environmental movement. I was two.
During this niche of history, people were using vast quantities of fossil fuels, particularly leaded gas for their vehicles. They were tossing trash and cast-off chemicals in waterways large and small. They were also riled up from international conflicts, namely the Vietnam War, leading to a tremendous flow of energy with few positive outlets and outcomes, particularly among America’s young adult sector.
Under the tutelage of then-Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a group of enthusiastic college students gathered peers and sourced other politicians, faith organizations, youth groups and individuals around America to coalesce on one common mission: Make the world aware of the damage industrial development was doing to Earth.
On April 22, between college spring breaks and final exams, 10% of the United States’ population participated in the very first Earth Day. It was unprecedented: Republican, Democrat, rich, poor, farmer or city-dweller all congregated in support of the planet. By 1990 Earth Day was a global movement.
And today, April 22, 2020, here we are, confined to our own little slices of Earth as we continue to fight for our health, wellness, and planet — still. But of all the Earth Days to remember, this one will likely stand out to our children. So let’s make it count.
I am heartened to see the wealth of Alaska outdoor organizations and businesses working so hard to keep kids engaged with the natural landscapes around them. From the Interior to Southeast and far beyond, perhaps no other scenario could have caused such an attention to the unique details of Alaska for this very special Earth Day. Below is a collection of activities and opportunities for anyone of any age, because, of course, Earth Day is for us all.
In keeping with my “A,B,C’s” of Anchorage Parks, this week’s location, Campbell Creek Estuary, was a natural selection (ha) for Earth Day. I love this park for the quiet. I love it for the level walking path that circuits around this former homestead property, perfect for little legs; and I love it for the abundance of birds showing up about now. Here’s your task: Get out there, and take a “quiet walk.” Commit to at least a few minutes of silence as you walk the pathway and to the viewing platforms that overlook the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. The sandhill cranes will soon be arriving – can you guess where they’ll nest this year? The chickadees and finches and bald eagles are already there – do you hear them? The mudflats and channels of Campbell Creek are melting fast – can you hear the water? Walk farther along the trail and down through the spruce forest to the bird blind, an area specially-built to provide we humans with closer access to sandhill crane nesting areas without disturbing the mothers-and-fathers-to-be. Look through the viewing slats – does it look different from here? (How long could you stay silent? Tell me!)
Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is my go-to quiet place in Fairbanks, and is the perfect place for an Earth Day stroll. The organization’s Creamer’s Field All Grade Bird Watch is in its 53rd year, and the coronavirus isn’t stopping the 2020 event. Stations will be set up around the refuge to allow for kids and parents to look for the arrival of waterfowl that graze on the seeds and such growing all around the refuge, with a naturalist helping (from an appropriate distance). This is geared toward kids grade three and up, but everyone is welcome. Please contact Mark Ross at (907) 459-7301 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a specific time, to make this a safe experience for all.
Earth Day Rocks! is a program of Juneau Parks and Recreation designed to get families moving around the city and appreciating nature at the same time. All this week, staff will be painting and hiding rocks for an Earth Day-inspired activity, beginning at 9 a.m. Find a suitable rock, or two or three, and follow the below instructions:
Where do you give clues and report finds?
There are two possibilities. First, tell others about it on the P&R Facebook post or within the event (see link, above). We love to see what you are painting and where you are hiding! The second place is on Juneau, Alaska ROCKS. Join this local Facebook group to connect with more rock painting enthusiasts!
DO: Hide your rock in a safe location. Think about the person who might find it and make sure they can access it easily and safely.
DO: Keep 6 feet from others not in your household while in the parks and on the trails.
DON’T: Hide your rock on state or federal public land; it is prohibited. <—– Please follow this rule.
My artist friend Annie Brace of Corso Graphics is well-known for her landscape-themed work with a decidedly Alaska feel. She’s created a beautiful image (a few of them, actually) for your coloring pleasure. You can grab HERE, or below.
Campbell Creek Science Center has gone all out with activities that go beyond their enormous swath of land in southeast Anchorage. This nifty BINGO card will be perfect for nature kids anywhere, and in fact, will be an interesting study in geographical contrasts. So try it, no matter where you live!
Whatever you choose today, put it in the context of Earth, and how very, very lucky we are.