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NEWS/ARTS | Vol. 22, No. 5, April 15, 2010
(Green Matters '10)

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Earth Day Northwest Florida

by Ryne Ziemba

A Guide To Celebrating The 40th Anniversary of Earth Day Locally

Perhaps you already know some of the facts about global warming.  Maybe you've read some of the studies, such as the report published in December of 2006 in Geophysical Research Letters that projected ice-free summers in the Arctic by 2040.

Or maybe you're concerned because you already know about the three billion people that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated will be at risk of water shortage due to climate change, or that a report published in "Nature" a few years ago predicted the extinction of a million animal species by the year 2050 due to global warming.

Perhaps you don't know about these things, but you would like to be around some people that will school you on changing environmental conditions.

If so, then spring is the season for you. Since 1970, every spring has meant the arrival of Earth Day, a day celebrating the beauty of the Earth's environment and highlighting the importance of education about environmental issues every April 22.

Earth Day was started by a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in but has since grown to be celebrated all over the world, including Northwest Florida.

How Northwest Florida Celebrates

There are three main events going on this year in the Pensacola area to celebrate Earth Day.

The first event is the Environmental Symposium at the University of West Florida in the University Commons Auditorium. The event will be held on April 22 from 9 a.m. until noon and will be focused on the theme "Environmental Issues in All Fields."

The event will consist of professors in the fields of anthropology, economics, hospitality, journalism, philosophy and psychology speaking on how environmental issues are a concern to more academic subjects than just environmental science.

Later that same day, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Milton Campus of Pensacola Junior College, there will be a Renewable Energy Forum. This forum will feature presentations from speakers in the areas of industry, academics, government and utilities on the subject of renewable energy.

However, if you are like many in our community and enjoy taking your environmental science with a chaser of fun, hands-on activities, you might be more interested in the event happening two days later at Bayview Park in Pensacola.

This event will take place on Saturday, April 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will feature music, games, workshops and activities for kids, all of which will be focused on the Earth Day founding principle of appreciating and educating each other about the Earth and its environment.

If you have kids, make sure to bring them by from noon to 4 p.m. when there will be a variety of activities aimed at younger folks. This will include a book hour from 2 to 3 p.m., during which local environmentalists will be reading some ecologically-themed children's classics like "The Lorax" and "The Giving Tree."

"It is important to get children involved with environmental awareness because they are our future. It is important that we teach them at an early age to be stewards of the environment," said Mary F. Gutierrez, coordinator for the Northwest Florida Earth Day celebration.

There will also be a very exciting demonstration by MANNA Gardens coordinator Sarah Bossa from 1 to 2 p.m. about community gardening.

Community gardens are plots of land designated for the purpose of giving space for people to grow their own food. So far, MANNA has created 10 of these gardens in Pensacola, including one on an abandoned lot created by Hurricane Ivan, and an organic garden created at the Azalea Trace Retirement Life Community.

The MANNA Web site claims that "all produce raised in the gardens provides nourishment to the local community cultivating the land, and where possible, to MANNA clients based on contributions to the MANNA pantries by the garden keepers."

Workshops Abound

Of course, being in the city recently ranked by the Environmental Working Group as having the worst drinking water in the 100 areas surveyed, this year's Earth Day event will also include a Water Quality Workshop from 2 to 3 p.m.

While this workshop is free, the coordinators for the event ask that you pre-register for this particular workshop through the Web site This workshop will teach about testing water for pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity, as well as how people can do more to protect our local waterways.

Some other workshops at the event will instruct people about the benefits of planting native plant species and the importance of using earth-friendly house-cleaning products.

When asked about the importance of Earth Day, Chasidy Fisher Hobbs, Coastkeeper for Emerald Coastkeeper and instructor in the Environmental Studies Department at UWF, added that "Annual Earth Day celebrations are an excellent way to remind ourselves that we all share this planet which provides resources we depend on; not to mention it is a great way to teach others about the need to protect those things essential to life: clean water, clean air and healthy food."

WHEN: 9 a.m.-noon, Thursday, April 22
WHERE: University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway, University Commons Auditorium, Conference Center A
COST: Free

WHEN: 6-9 p.m., Thursday, April 22
WHERE: Pensacola Junior College, Milton Campus, 5988 Highway 90, Building/Room 4200
COST: Free

WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 24
WHERE: Bayview Park, East Hill, Pensacola
COST: Free