Letter: An Earth Day wish from GROWLS

Tuesday, April 19 2016

In 1969, due to mounting pressure of the Vietnam War, pesticides, DDT, freeways, toxic dumps, raw sewage, polluting factories and power plants, loss of wilderness and extinction of wildlife, and the Santa Barbara Oil Spill (third largest after the Gulf spill and the Exxon Valdez) many Americans grew increasingly concerned about the state of the environment.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring published in 1962 had raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.

John McConnell at a UNESCO conference in San Francisco pioneered the first idea of Earth Day to take place the following year in 1970 to coincide with the spring equinox. 

Senator Gaylord Nelson also had concerns about the state of environmental protection and was horrified by what he had seen at the Santa Barbara Oil Spill. Senator Nelson was an environmentalist and conservation activist from Wisconsin. He proposed an environmental teach-in day and chose April 22 as a day when students would be in class and it would not conflict with spring break or religious holidays. He enrolled the help of Stanford University student Denis Hayes to coordinate the first Earth Day April 22, 1970, and twenty million Americans across the country responded in a peaceful demonstration for the planet. Earth Day has been celebrated every year since and is always held on April 22.

In 1990 Canada joined International Earth Day and six million Canadians and one billion people in 170 countries took part in Earth Day celebrations. It is a day of action that changes human behaviour and provokes policy changes. 

By managing shellfish beds, First Nations could harvest shellfish sustainably. Gabriola Island is a finite space and as islanders we are aware of this and practice sustainability: recycling through GIRO, community gardens at the Commons and a garden at the elementary school where “grow yer own” food has become a mantra. Many folks now have gardens. Sustainable Gabriola is exploring initiatives for clean energy; Gabriola’s GERTIE bus helps to lessen our carbon footprint; GABE Energy has a solar power trial now underway on an island home; Gabriola Streamkeepers have identified two streams with salmon fry; Save Our Shores are committed Gabriolans working for no pipelines and tanker-free oceans; and GROWLS 2010 Earth Day project “Bagging It For The Planet” spent the day in the Village photographing the number of non-plastic bags used for groceries. 

Earth Day is not just about humankind but also about the wildlife we share our island and the planet with. What can we do to lessen our impact on the wildlife we see on a daily basis? Instead of fencing peg-to-peg x 4 leave a portion of your land free. Look for or allow indigenous plants to take hold. Have a wild garden if you will, instead of planting grass which requires watering. You will be pleasantly surprised at the beauty and complexity of the indigenous plants. Take a stroll around the Gabriola Museum grounds where native plants grow and are identified.

Wildlife trees that are not a danger should be left standing as they provide homes for many bird species such as woodpeckers and owls. Wetlands or ponds should be encouraged, as they are beneficial for frogs, newts, dragonflies and snakes. George Szantos in his book Bog Tender tells us about the beauty, wonder and peacefulness of his bog.

Why not on this Earth Day look over your property and see what you could create that would benefit wildlife. You will be rewarded many times over. Take a moment and let the magic of this beautiful island capture your soul.

~ Liz Ciocea, Gabriola Rescue of Wildlife Society