Celebrate Earth Day

gayle-at-estesThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

It’s Earth Day!

Well, Earth Day is actually tomorrow. What is Earth Day? Celebrated in many countries throughout the world since 1970, this special day was started in the United States and founded Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin as an awareness event to the effects of pollution on the environment. It was a time that Democrats and Republicans came together for the greater good, of the people and the planet – passage of Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act came on the heels of Earth Day.

squirrel on gate_blog photoAs most of you know, I love nature. As a child, I spent many hours in the fields and forests of Iowa, roaming the acreage my parents owned. Dad taught me about conservation through the establishment of brush piles, creating shelters for birds and small mammals living on our property, and creation of nesting boxes for wood ducks. The two-acre pond on our land provided water for all wildlife species and swimming areas for ducks and geese, as well as habitat for fish species like bass and catfish. We were an outdoors family, enjoying the activities of camping, fishing, hiking (and, for my dad, hunting). Red squirrels, cottontail rabbits, bobwhite quail, great horned owls, various songbirds, red foxes, and white-tailed deer, among so many other species frequented our property. From Iowa to Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and back to Wyoming again, I’ve experienced the beauty of nature. And, I enjoy each facet of that majesty.

I’ve worked with children throughout the years, educating them on the value of outdoor splendor. As education director for Montana’s Grizzly Discovery Center during the mid-1990s, I created on-site and off-site programs for kids and for teachers. I shared the importance of preserving habitat, which is not just for bears but is also shared by other creatures. While working at the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin, I again shared about the majesty of nature, in the form of stately wild cranes and the importance of habitat. I worked with Forest Service officials both in Montana and Wyoming to create educational programs, and I once envisioned developing an educational center to teach the ethics of environmental stewardship.

I’ve planted trees, grown flowers for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, and set out bird feeders. And I’ve taught children the joy and beauty of nature writing.

front yard feeder and water_blog photo

cody-cabin-cover2In my book Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, one of my goals is to educate children about the value of the outdoors; I also desire to help kids garner a greater appreciation for nature. So many children these days have little to no outdoor opportunity or experience. Video games, Legos, and other occupiers of time harness kids to screens and non-outdoor activities. Even those who live near natural beauty spend less time in the outdoors than kids of 20 or 30 years ago.

So this Earth Day, take some time to do some good, for both people and the environment. Take your kids or grandkids outdoors for a walk. Make a game of finding flowers, birds, and butterflies while taking your stroll. Go for a bicycle ride with your family and help your community be cleaner through a family litter pickup. Recycle. Participate in a community-wide clean-up. Plant trees in your yard or through a community project. Create a flower garden that helps bees and butterflies and certify your garden or yard through the National Wildlife Federation as a habitat space – that signage (like the one seen below that’s posted near my front yard) helps educate others in your neighborhood. Even go to a movie — a specific movie, that is: DisneyNature is releasing “Born in China” specifically for this Earth Day weekend, with donations from theater tickets going to help endangered animals in China.

There are so many things we can do, big or small, to help nature, whether in our communities or beyond.

NWF Sign_blog photo_rotated

What will you do to help preserve the great outdoors? My plan? Plant some bushes helpful to songbirds, butterflies, and bees. My husband and I have lived in our home for 10 years now, and my blind dog Sage died five years ago – I’ve been wanting to create an outdoor space in her honor for years, so this is the year to do so: celebrate Sage and her love for the outdoors and celebrate our 10th anniversary at this house with a project to help nature.

I hope you enjoy doing something special this weekend, too. Happy Earth Day, everyone!

 

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet books for children and adults, including Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, which is available in print and Kindle versions. Her newest children’s book A Kind Dog Named Mary about her springer/cocker mix is now available; the book teaches children about kindness and pet adoption — the release coincides with this year’s Children’s Book Week and Be Kind to Animals Week. She’s also a contributing writer to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she wrote about the nation’s national parks. She enjoys sharing about the human-pet bond and about the value of nature. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

Mary book cover