top of page
  • ljmarkson

Local Earth Day Activism Needs to be Every Day

The magical Earth Day event at Zonolite Park organized by hosts Steph Johnson and Josh Wayne raised awareness about protecting the environment by focusing on the kind of activism we can do when we restore nature locally.

Steph and Josh brought an intergenerational group together for a meaningful and healing way to express Earth Day

The original Earth Day in 1970 was before there were strong legal and regulatory mechanisms in place to protect our environment. It was founded as a national call to action on the environment with 20 million people across the U.S. participating in speeches, marches, community clean-ups, and teach-ins. Not coincidentally, by December of 1970 President Nixon signed Reorganization Plan No. 3 calling for the establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency. By 1972 the Clean Water Act was expanded. Earth Day has been credited with the birth of the environmental movement.

This photo from TIME shows Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. (Bettmann—Getty Images)

Today, even though there are still some rallies and demonstrations, Earth Day has become less about activism and more about education and raising awareness with celebrations. These are often crowded, high energy festivals with music, food, drink, educational activities, vendor booths, “green” environmental products, face painting, and other somewhat eco-friendly activities. Green Matters offers a thoughtful take on the idea that modern day Earth Day celebrations tend to greenwash and dilute the intent of the day. I think anything that gets the word out is helpful but would agree that nature selfies or Earth Day specials by companies selling random products certainly do little to move the needle toward protecting nature.

Memes about Earth Day give context to the idea that helping the earth needs to be more than a slogan or bumper sticker.

The future Earth Day founders worried about is now when it comes to saving the environment. There are 30% fewer birds and by some estimates 50% fewer insects since the first Earth Day in 1970. Today, the movement to restore nature where we live championed by Doug Tallamy is becoming mainstream. Doing something to help heal the earth seems like a more personal way to make a connection with the spirit of Earth Day everyday. National Geographic Kids shares ways families can contribute such as upcycling, planting a tree, limiting water usage, and picking up litter.

My friend Leslie helps heal the earth when she brings a trash bag and picker just about every time she visits a natural area. I took this photo when I met her for a little forest bathing at Zonolite Park this winter.

Steph and Josh seemed to get the right balance of raising awareness and actively repairing our world. Their intimate celebration included messaging around the collapse of our local ecosystems and focused on cultivating native habitats by taking action in our own community. A gentle, communal spirit infused the activities starting with a Storytelling walk through the park with Tea of EcoLogic who gave an insight into the interconnectedness of nature through captivating and lyrical stories about the native plants and wildlife in the Zonolite Woods. Mayapples, box turtles, jewelweed, butterweed, crayfish, muscadines, tulip poplars and river cane were all woven into compelling stories giving voice to our impact on the world and the reasons for restoring habitat.

Tea of EcoLogic has a gift for storytelling about nature.

The storytelling ended at a clearing in the woods where a tree fell, and the county unfortunately brought in heavy equipment and created a larger hole in the canopy. Last fall I wrote about Josh and Steph's purposeful Thanksgiving community event planting native edibles in this opening in the Zonolite woods. For Earth Day, Zonolite's restoration angel Pat helped the group identify and transplant native shallow sedge (Carex lurida), clustered mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in this same spot. One of the participants even brought native paw paw saplings he grew from seed to contribute.

There were so many multileveled connections made at the native planting in Zonolite Woods.

The group then moved on to Peachtree Creek that runs along the park. I’m not sure what happened there because I was a little under the weather and had to leave. I imagine they continued the nature-focused Earth Day journey as they grounded themselves to the earth by walking in the water and exploring the creek bed.

Earthing or grounding connects us to the earth in a fundamental way and helps both mental and physical well being.

As I left the park I noticed a rare American queen bumblebee out foraging for food for her nest on blooming native yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria). The Amercian bumblebee population has declined 90% in North America in the last 20 years yet it is still found in Georgia. There is a healthy population of American bumblebees at Zonolite where Earth Day is routinely honored by the Friends of Zonolite Park group and community volunteers like Steph and John who actively help restore nature where they live.

The future is now! The American bumblebee is just one of the native species depending on us to save nature where we live.

Note: There are no affiliate links in this blog. Please click the highlighted text throughout the posts for links to details, explanations, references, worthy organizations or businesses, or examples that might be helpful.

bottom of page