It sometimes gets depressing. The current national administration is suggesting steep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (threatening not only the Climate Protection Program, but also grant programs that fund communities seeking to provide clean drinking water, clean up brownfields, protect the Great Lakes, and more). And the state budget process is taking a swipe at clean water protections, forestry education, and renewable energy credits (find out more from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters). It’s sometimes hard to keep a positive attitude. But Earth Day is coming. And we will celebrate. Thanks to organizations like the Earth Day Network, which tracks our collective “Acts of Green” (2 billion and counting, by the way) and provides ideas for each of us to enact, my hope for the planet is heightened. Four of Earth Day Network’s top picks include planting a tree, eating less meat, joining a march, and ditching disposable plastics. That sounds doable thanks to the following:
- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers easy access to tree saplings – and even provides free saplings to 4th grade classrooms.
- A new report from the World Resources Institute indicates that just cutting back on meat consumption by 50% could have nearly the same positive impact as going vegetarian.
- The March for Science is coming up – on Earth Day, no less – with 12 satellite marches happening in Wisconsin.
- And celebrities like Jeff Bridges are joining forces with organizations like Plastic Pollution Coalition to get the word out about plastic use.
Be prepared for images in this video to disturb – but I think that’s the point.
The Dude abides. So, go ahead and celebrate hope on April 22nd (and every day) and fight the feeling of doom. And if you can’t take action as recommended by the Earth Day Network, just get out and garden. Researchers recently reported that contact with a harmless soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae triggers the release of serotonin in the brain which improves mood and learning. Need more inspiration? Here’s 10 Things To Do if The World is Making You Depressed from True Activist – spoiler alert, getting out into nature is number one!
To Do This Month:
Find out how to recycle old batteries and light bulbs, among other items, from Recycle More Wisconsin.
Celebrate National Park Rx Day on April 23rd. What’s Park Rx? A community of practitioners prescribing the use of parks and public lands to improve health and wellness. Find out more at ParkRx.org.
Take advantage of free admission to National Parks on the weekends of April 15-16 and 22-23, the bookends of National Parks Week.
Check out the many events happening at Nature Net sites this month, including the “Earth Day Bouquet of Events” from April 10 thru 23. Our joint Events Calendar includes the opening day at International Crane Foundation on April 15th, a Girl Scout Earth Day Badge Fest on April 22nd at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, a Birds & Adaptations class at the Madison Children’s Museum on April 29th, and much more.
National Environmental Education Week
Celebrate National Environmental Education Week – April 23rd through 29th – with ideas and tools from the National EE Foundation (NEEF). NEEF, which was established as a part of the National EE Act in 1990, works as “an independent non-profit organization complementary to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), extending its ability to foster environmental education for all ages and in all segments of the American public.” NEEF has compiled links, webinars, and teacher tool kits for each day of EE week, including a Wednesday webinar on closing the environmental literacy gap, a suite of STEM-related educator toolkits, and downloadable infographics.
Maybe, for you, celebrating Earth Week is as simple as a school yard clean up. If that’s the case, here are some tips on getting organized from Learning to Give. Or perhaps you wish to celebrate Earth Day every day and infuse nature and Vitamin N into your school community. If that’s the case, check out these 10 ideas from the Children & Nature Network.
In Richard Louv’s 2008 book, Last Child in the Woods, he documents the disconnect between children and nature and correlates it with increased rates in attention deficit disorder and childhood obesity, among other maladies. Now, in Louv’s latest release, Vitamin N, he provides a solution – well, 500 of them to be exact. The book’s subtitle says it all: “The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life: 500 Ways to Enrich Your Family’s Health & Happiness.”
Ideas in the book range from simply rolling down a hill or keeping a Vitamin N journal, to more lofty projects like “making your community great for families and nature by creating a nature-rich school, schoolyard, library, or faith-based organization.”
Louv and the Children & Nature Network have now upped the ante and invite you to take the Vitamin N challenge. There are several ways to submit your ideas or activities – my favorite is adding the hashtag #VitaminN to the Instagram posts of my kids on our weekend “mandatory nature time” – but you can also submit a blog post or send an email or photos. Check out the Vitamin N website for ideas and stories from around the world. If you take up the challenge, spread the word by dropping the badge at left on your social media page and showcasing what a “regular dose of nature” can do.
You may also find inspiration from ScreenFreeParenting.com.