Friends Groups Celebrate Earth Day 2014
According to the Wilderness Society, an estimated twenty million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970—forty five years ago this week. The event drew extensive media attention and ushered in an era of unprecedented environmental legislation. In a recent op-ed, Alex Laskey–Conservation Lands Foundation Board Member and President and Founder of Opower–noted that it was a brilliant and optimistic choice by the organizers of that first Earth Day to make “education the core of their campaign – trusting that once Americans knew the issues, motivation would follow.” As Laskey points out, “Information unlocks behavioral change.”
The environmental movement has grown more sophisticated in the ensuing decades, as have the threats to our lands–so the educational model is as important as ever. Grassroots events that offer hands-on opportunities for children and adults to positively impact their local region are a cornerstone of that model. This year, members of CLF’s Friends Grassroots Network hosted and partnered with a range of events to commemorate Earth Day, providing those educational experiences that are so critical to unlocking behavioral change. Here are just a few examples:
Friends Group: Mendocino Land Trust
Event: Annual Big River Clean & Canoe – A Party for the Planet event with Visit Mendocino County
What makes it unique: Mendocino Land Trust, an organization that played a key role in getting the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands added to the California Coastal National Monument this spring, partnered with Visit Mendocino County–the official tourism bureau–and Catch-A-Canoe, a canoe and bicycle rental company. The event offered opportunities for volunteers to do invasive species plant removal and trash pick-up at Big River beach. To sweeten the pot, the event also offered free cruises on Big River aboard the Solar Wind, a unique 33-foot outrigger watercraft that uses wind, solar electric and human power to cruise along Mendocino’s beautiful Big River Estuary. The partnerships with both the official county tourism bureau and the rental provider are telling: protecting valuable public lands can have a significantly positive economic impact on a region. Conservation is good for business when it comes to developing or boosting tourism-supported economies.
Friends Group: Snake River Raptor Volunteers
Event: Join with Snake River Raptor Volunteers, (SRRV), to plant native trees and shrubs for Earth Day, or hike along the Snake River.
What makes it unique: The event began with a presentation at Dedication Point near the canyon rim, which included a brief history of the Morley Nelson Snake River Raptor National Conservation Area (NCA), and information about the many species of raptors that can be seen there. After that, guests and volunteers were invited to either join with a biologist for an informative hike in the canyon, or to help with the Earth Day activity of planting native trees and shrubs along the Snake River. This event encapsulates the educational model in a single day: give people information about the resource and they’ll understand the importance of conservation efforts there.
Events: Two of these five groups, Friends of Cascade Siskiyou and Citizens For Dixie’s Future, joined existing events in their area: the Zion Canyon Earth Day Celebration, and the Rogue Valley Earth Day Celebration. The California Wilderness Coalition partnered with the Conservation Alliance on the San Francisco Bay Area’s Conservation Alliance Backyard Collective, which created an opportunity for both the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership and Friends of Inyo to join in the event.
What makes these unique: If you have the partnerships and resources to collaborate on an event like the Backyard Collective, it could create a ripple effect and provide opportunities for other groups. But you don’t have to organize an event if somebody else already has! Especially when time and resources are limited, participating in an existing event is a smart and painless way to get in front of an audience–and in these cases, very good audiences.
Education is a key component of getting people to take action, and a national event like Earth Day–which focuses many people’s attention on conservation and the environment–is an important time to get your message out. Give people the information they need, and you just might unlock behaviors that will help us protect our treasured National Conservation Lands so that they endure from generation to generation.