Earth Day at 50
Progression, Emergence, Park & Rec Involvement
rth Day was originally instituted to encourage people to aid outdoor sustainability and take accountability for the effect that humans have on the World. Earth Day 2020 will celebrate its 50th anniversary in a new fashion; by fighting a global pandemic that has forced people to remain inside and ignore traveling and outdoor adventuring.
The Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS) has noticed people’s unlimited need for outdoor recreation and escape from their homes that now serve as their home, school, job and daycare facility. It is more important than ever that people have outdoor recreation to manage their pandemic stressors.
PRPS canceled its 2020 PRPS-PAEE Conference & Expo and postponed the 2020 Therapeutic Recreation Institute in hopes to prevent coronavirus from spreading. These conferences provide educational sessions to recreation and park professionals to help them develop their community into a more environmentally conscious with modern methods and tools.
It’s crucial to include educational sessions that encourage environmental care. The profit from the conferences also improves the environment as it pays for the speakers at the conference and for the administrators at PRPS who work tirelessly year-round to better our World. Both of these groups are strengthening our community’s effort in improving the Earth by spreading new ways and technologies to prevent hazardous waste and toxic build-up. Programs often teach about recycling, sustainable tools and methods for park maintenance and latest research that explains how emotional and physical health is positively altered when people spend time outside.
Caring for our world can help our planet and your health.
It is more important than ever to stick together as mankind and fight for our health and environmental wellbeing during this pandemic. Grocery stores, restaurants and parks have limited working hours or are closed now, but that doesn’t mean people can limit their mental or physical health needs.
This is the first time that most of the World will celebrate Earth Day while fighting a viral outbreak. Although this is the 50th anniversary of the one day to specifically celebrate community recreation and environmentally-centered programming. In the past 50 years, we have seen emergence in environmental activism and vital importance surfacing toward greenhouse gas emissions through political campaigns and research facilities.
PRPS has always focused on bringing people and nature together as close as possible. One of the many ways in the past 50 years is the Good For You, Good For All campaign. This campaign strives to connect citizens with outdoor recreation activities to increase their appreciation and active use of parks, forests and public spaces while imparting a message of environmental stewardship and healthy living.
Get Outdoors PA, established in 2004, has offered thousands of recreation programs in Pennsylvania’s greenspaces in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. Programs that prioritize the environment throughout Pennsylvania benefit the community with local jobs and recreation activities that improve physical and mental health and lastly provide a preserved shelter for animals.
As people refrain from leaving their houses, they are also reducing the nitrogen dioxide air pollution levels. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is emitted by burning fossil fuels typically through engines. We aren’t able to know for sure whether this will help air quality in the long run due to the lack of time and research able to be performed.
The past 50 years have shown how much environmental progress we can achieve with events and programs, but we must continue to support these efforts by attending, creating and talking about new inventive ways to help our Earth.
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Forest bathing - a retreat into the real
The Japanese healing art of Shinrin-yoku has been a part of preventive health care since its development during the 1980s.
Can some time with the trees fix what ails you?
For a while now, doctors have been noting that spending time in the outdoors is good for our health, and that incorporating outdoor time into a fitness routine can up the ante on the benefits of exercise.
Taking your fitness goals out there can lift your mood, improve your focus, provide faster healing and less pain, and even makes the very act of exercising easier.
Shinrin-yoku, translated as “forest bathing,” puts a different spin on the idea of exercising outdoors and suggests that there are significant health benefits to be derived from engaging all five senses in a gentle, contemplative walk through a forest ecosystem.
Says Ben Page, a certified forest therapy guide from Los Angeles, “Whereas a … hike’s [objective] is to reach a destination, a Shinrin-yoku walk’s objective is to give participants an opportunity to slow down, appreciate things that can only be seen or heard when one is moving slowly, and take a break from the stress of their daily lives.”
Invoking many of the ideas featured in Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv’s groundbreaking work on nature deficit disorder in children, new research on forest bathing confirms that the simple engagement of the five senses in contemplation in a forest provides:
A regular practice ultimately brings practitioners:
There’s Something in the Air
The philosophy and research are fascinating. For example, while improved immune system function could be demonstrated on research subjects who spent time in nature, no similar improvement was noted in comparison city excursions. Reduction in stress is one factor at play here. However, a measurement in the air of the natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees, collectively known as phytoncide, corresponded to the improvements in immune function—interesting when you recall that treatment for tuberculosis once involved the so-called “forest cure,” with the establishment sanatoriums in Germany’s pine forests and in the Adirondack forests of New York, for example. There was speculation among the physicians of the time that pine trees secreted a healing balm into the air. And like many a long-forgotten theory, it seems they may have been right!
Five Steps to Forest Bathing (from Mind Body Green):
Resources for Additional Reading and Viewing:
Association of Nature & Forest Therapy Guides & Program
Mind Body Green: Why You Need to Try Forest Bathing
The Washington Post: To Your Health
National Geographic Channel
the earth day "teach-in" MUST CONTINUE
I was in my second year of teaching Geography, the study of the earth, and I was working on my Master’s Thesis, Man as a Geomorphological Agent.
This year was especially significant for me and the students at Mechanicsburg Middle School. Seventh grade students were encouraged to join an activity club. I was the advisor for the Ecology Club.
The students needed a project. Middle school students have a reputation for having endless energy and enthusiasm and were very interested in having their project celebrate Earth Day. They collected large quantities of aluminum and steel cans to recycle. It developed into a very large project. We learned that the school district had purchased land that included a pre-Civil War farmhouse. The district had planned to build a school on the property. The school was never built. We were able develop this property into the Trails and Trees Environmental Center.
With the profits from the can project, we were able to fund purchasing historic trees, purchasing equipment, and developing programs and activities for grades K-12 at the site. Through the efforts of the students, teachers, administration, parents, volunteers, and Eagle Scout projects, the Trails and Trees Environmental Center has developed into a recognized center for opportunities to study, explore, and enjoy nature and the environment.
The best way to observe Earth Day is to educate the younger generations. Future generations will not have the opportunity to experience and enjoy nature, if we do not mentor our young on how to know, love, and save our Earth.
Inspiring curiosity and a sense of wonder, investigating, observing, and dreaming are just a few of the many experiences that we can employ to lead and direct children on their life long journey of discovery with nature. The influence of parents and mentors, and time outdoors, trips to museums, parks, mountains, rivers, fields, and shores will inspire and motivate children and students. We can teach them to see what others can’t see, imagine, or discover. They can interpret nature’s beauty and value by writing, painting, speaking, pretending, and listening to the natural environment.
Children must take time to look at the stars, listen to the wind, feel the rain, smell the flowers, and ponder the mysteries with their imagination.
A diversity of plants and animals in the landscape creates a healthy and balanced environment. The same can be said for our schools. Every student taking the same test, the same few courses, and taught in the same way lessens the creativity, individuality, and diversity of our students. Diversity and a sharing of experiences, ideas, enthusiasm, and knowledge is what have made this country great. The earth sciences and environmental education curriculums are not getting the attention they deserve.
Our children are being restrained by abundant rules and regulations limiting their time and experiences in the outdoors. Rules caution them not to collect butterflies, rocks, insects, sea shells, fossils, leaves, etc. They must stay on the path, not climb the trees, stay out of the water, stay in line, walk not run, stay out of the dirt, and not pick up that feather or egg on the ground.
Stars can teach us about creation. Insects, weeds, trees, streams, and mountains teach us about the earth. Every rock has a story to tell us about the past. Plants and animals tell about the present.
Our earth’s future will be determined by what we teach our children. It was true 50 years ago and is still true today.
Let’s make the earth sciences, environmental science, and outdoor education a top priority in the schools of Pennsylvania just as it was on the first Earth Day fifty years ago, when my students and I started Trails and Trees Environmental Center in Mechanicsburg School District.
“For in the end, we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand what we are taught.” - Abu Dioun
Edwin Charles, now retired, was a teacher in the Mechanicsburg Area School District for 35 years. He has also taught at Harrisburg Area Community College and Messiah College.
a sense of place in this world
The following is an adaptation of a speech given by Marci Mowery as part of an acceptance speech when being named Distinguished Pennsylvania Geographer in 2017.
I titled my presentation Ramblings from a Reticent Geographer for a reason—the reason being that I have confession to make. At the point at which I was contacted and asked if I would accept the award I did not refer myself as a geographer. This is despite the fact that I have a Masters degree in Geoenvironmental studies from the GEOGRAPHY Earth Science Department at Shippensburg University.
Hmmmm. I pondered this for days, weeks actually, as I mulled over what I wanted to say tonight. I use a lot of titles and roles to describe myself—conservationist, environmentalist, educator—to name a few. I’ve spent my career in conservation in the non-profit community—which makes me a conservationist, right?
Then it hit me. And it was obvious. Geography was my tool, my vehicle, for the work that I do.
For me, geography has always been about developing a sense of place and about connecting people to that place to better understand the impact of their decisions. And when I reflected upon it, I realize that my sense of place began at the ripe age of 7.
It’s 1972 and young Marci is standing at the door watching it rain. Now I was an outdoor child, so a little rain didn’t bother me. In fact, I liked to make boats out of natural materials and float them in the gutter during storms, imagining them making their way down to the river. I grew up in the town of Columbia, in Lancaster County, and the river to which I refer is the Susquehanna River.
But this rain was unlike any rain I had ever experienced, lasting not just hours, but days. The curb where I liked to play was slowly being consumed by a rising wall of water. My street became a stream, and there seemed to be no end in sight.
Across the river from me lived my Grandfather, in a community known locally as Murphy’s Hollow. I knew he lived closer to the river than I did, even though I could see the river from my neighborhood. Up river lived my cousins.
I could hear my mom on the phone, monitoring their situation. I read the newspaper with my mom, clipping out articles that showed people stranded by rising water.
You see, this was Hurricane Agnes, one of the most devastating storms to ever hit Pennsylvania.
When the rain subsided, we finally made our way outdoors to witness the devastation of water. I remember vividly to this day, the high water marks on houses, the piles of ruined goods along the curb, and the log flume at Hershey park that reminded more of a game of pickup sticks than an amusement park ride.
And I remember feeling frustrated that at 7 I could not help the many people in need.
In Pennsylvania, most folks are either shore people or mountain people when it comes to summer vacation. My family was mountain people, traveling to Cameron County each summer to a hunting camp my grandfather had helped to find in the 1930s. The camp resided in an old lumber office, for as you know, in the late 1800s timbering consumed most of the forest in Pennsylvania and these camps were quite common.
In front of the camp ran the Bennetts Branch to the Sinnemahoning Creek. As a child, I use to think that it was cool that the creek supported nothing that could harm me—no insects, fish, snakes, or any wildlife. But I didn’t remain naive—I soon understood that the creek was a product of abandoned mine drainage, as the area had been actively mined for coal for years. This was my second memory of learning about watersheds and interconnections of landscapes.
For 52 years I have visited the camp, generally around the same of time year. This afforded me the opportunity to witness the recovery of the stream and the surrounding environments, thus teaching another lesson, that of nature’s resilience. It also demonstrated to me that there were things I COULD do, even as a child, and later an adult, to conserve our natural world.
I can drive the route to the camp with my eyes closed, and returning there always feels like going home. I am a river rat—not only by passion for my life along the Susquehanna, but my school mascot was a river rat!
Yet I never wanted to be confined to one place, and when I learned how to read a map in 8th grade, I thought I was given the best prize ever. And it’s been a lover affair ever since.
Maps opened the door to the world for me, by bestowing upon me the ability to travel anywhere. And indeed I have. By the time I was 40, I had traveled to all 50 states. I’ve been to 5 of the 7 continents. I’ve been to one of the most remote island—Easter Island and the most populated country—China.
When I travel I travel not as a tourist, but as a person filled with curiosity and wonder, a person eager to understand the culture, the relationships, the natural world, and because I’m a foodie, the cuisine. My travels shaped me into the person I am today by developing my understanding of inter-relationships, of people, and of environments.
Throughout my career I have used maps to help create a sense of place for people—either through tourism initiatives, community development, land use planning, environmental education, or for fun. I believe that we cannot protect our natural assets and our communities if we don’t have a sense of place or connection. In my current position as President of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation I know that if people are not excited about our state parks and forests, these assets will not be here for future generations.
45 years after I stood witness to the impacts of hurricane Agnes, we all stood witness to a summer of natural disasters—from floods, to hurricanes to wildfires. The work that we do now is more important than ever if we are to turn the tide on climate change, disconnection from one another, and disconnection to place. I am concerned that we’ve become reliant on our mobile devices and google maps to find our way, tossing the maps aside for technology. This focus on getting from point a to point b, removes the opportunity to wonder, to develop a sense of place, and to connect to oneself. The journey is as important as the destination, and having the ability to view the bigger picture is both metaphorical and literal.
As I close, I leave with three challenges:
Since 2002, Marci Mowery has been the President of Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation. She takes PPFF's place as "the official nonprofit voice for Pennsyulvania's state parks and forests" very seriously, devoting endless hours (sleepless and otherwise) in pursuit of the protection of these public lands.
IMPACT AND INSPIRATION FROM FIRST EARTH DAY
n that first Earth Day in 1970, I was a sophomore at the McKeesport campus of Penn State majoring in forestry. Although I consider myself to have been mostly a spectator that day, the impact of the day on campus and the national news had a profound impact on me. Wanting to make a difference in the world, at the suggestion of my advisor I decided to switch from forestry to a new major, Environmental Resource Management (ERM). I was among only 10 ERM students at Penn State in 1970 and by the fall of 1971 I had transferred to Penn State’s main campus.
Being in the first class of ERM, there was a lot of new ground for teachers and students. Only in my senior year did we break away from required general science courses and get into the environmental resource management courses that had been created and taught for the first time ever. The idea for ERM was to bring an environmental focus to government and infrastructure planning. It’s hard to imagine now what an innovative concept this was, but the truly multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and scientific approach of the program meant we became well-versed on a wide range of business processes, laws, and regulations, and could communicate with a wide range of decision-makers.
During the summer breaks from Penn State and after graduation in 1973, I worked as a laborer and park ranger at Pymatuning and Poe Valley State Parks. That work gave me the opportunity to see first-hand what it takes to manage Pennsylvania’s state park system, protect our natural resources, and interact with the public in both positive and negative situations. This experience was doubly important as it became apparent on graduation that the field of environmental resource management was so new that few employers understood my academic training and expertise. Over 100 letters to agencies and companies who I was sure would need my brand new expertise yielded little success; this wasn’t unusual, only five of my fellow ERM graduates had by then succeeded in finding a position that tracked with our studies. Sometimes it is very hard to be the trail-blazer!
Eventually, though, the Department of Transportation saw the wisdom in hiring me and I became
Assistant Planning and Programming Engineer in Engineering District 9-0 in Holidaysburg in 1974, launching my 35-year career working in the transportation field focused on planning and environmental management. I was able to serve as, among other positions, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Quality for PennDOT and as time passed and I transitioned into private industry, I am happy to note that the dreamed-for consideration of environmental impacts on transportation issues has became standard.
Looking back, one of the ERM courses that influenced me the most was a seminar with guest speakers from government and industry. Most prominent among these speakers was Maurice K. Goddard, the Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources, a relatively new state agency created in 1970 from the Department of Forests and Waters. His lecture began my exposure to the environmental leaders in the Commonwealth. Over the course of my career, I would have the pleasure to work with other prominent and influential environmental leaders in the Commonwealth such as:
All the while I was working at PennDOT and in my consulting practice, I pursued my strong interest in promoting conservation leadership and the Commonwealth's Conservation Heritage. Beginning with helping to organize and conduct the Maurice K. Goddard Symposium in 1997, I joined an ad hoc group of conservation professionals who would dedicate their passion and energies to researching, documenting, and telling the stories of the Commonwealth's rich conservation heritage over the next two decades.
In 2009, representatives from some of Pennsylvania's prominent historical and environmental organizations came together in partnership with the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation to create the Goddard Legacy Project. The mission of the Project was to answer a simple question, “Where will we find our future conservation leaders?” Using the Goddard Legacy as a springboard, the partners have now expanded the search for future leaders to the Conservation Heritage Project. The overarching mission of the Project is to create a comprehensive archive of the important story of conservation in the Commonwealth, including profiles of some of the very people I’ve listed above as having been so important in my own career.
In summary, I have been inspired and motivated by Earth Day 1970, subsequent Earth Day events, and prominent conservation leaders in the present and the past to dedicate much of my personal and professional energies to promoting conservation and stewardship. I have been blessed with good health, fortune, opportunities, family, friends, education, community, and a strong belief that people will do the right thing if they understand why.
I thank all of the conservation and environmental professionals whose work continues to change lives and inspire dedication to the Commonwealth, for all they stood for, and for the foundation they laid.
Now retired, Wayne Kober is Co-Chair of the advisory committee for paconservationheritage.org/Pennsylvania’s Conservation Heritage, a project devoted to honoring the contributions of Pennsylvania’s conservation heroes. Over the course of his career, he helped found the Pennsylvania of Environmental Professionals( PAEP), and served on the Greenways Partnership Commission, Governor Tom Ridge's 21st Century Environment Commission, the Environmental Quality Board, the Sound Land Use Committee, and the Green Government Council.
What i did on the first earth day - 50 years ago
On the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) I was four and a half years out of Forestry School working as an Area Forester for the New Jersey Bureau of Forestry in the Kittatinny Mountains of that state. My busy work schedule was filled with preparing forest management plans for dozens of forest owners and helping them manage their woodlands by marking their timber, precommercial thinnings, and preparing reforestation plans.
I received two Earth Day speaking invitations. One from the High School my younger sister and brother were attending and the other from the Newton, New Jersey Rotary Club. I had not given many public presentations at that point in my career and was quite nervous. Back in those days the only AV equipment available was the overhead projector and 35 MM projector. Fortunately, I had a pretty good slide collection, so I pulled together a Kodak carousel reel of slides and headed back to high school. I recall my remarks covered wildfires, Smokey Bear, wildlife, trash disposal (at that time New York City was loading its garbage into barges and towing it out in the Atlantic to be dumped and hypodermic needles were washing up on New Jersey's beaches) air pollution (New Jersey oil refineries were frequently casting a foul stench over Newark, Hoboken, and Jersey City) and the absence of recycling. I described the lakes in the high country of the Adirondack Mountains devoid of trout and aquatic life because of the "acid rain" from industrial complex emissions in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.
It was a Junior-Senior High School and the auditorium was not big enough to handle all the students, so I had to repeat my presentation. I first spoke to the senior high students; they were attentive, and my presentation was well received. Next were the junior high students (referred to as the "little kids" by my sister who was in the senior high) and before I could finish up they lost interest, ignored me, and pandemonium ensued. I was amazed that neither the principal nor the teachers made any attempt to quiet them down. It was a humbling experience to realize that I did not have the ability to keep an auditorium full of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders interested in my presentation!
After the high school experience, I approached the Rotary Club presentation a few days later with some degree of trepidation but I need not have worried because things there went much better. I did not use slides during the Rotary presentation but covered some of same environmental issues with some local examples (like the farm and industrial pollution of the Paulenskill River, a trout stream that ran through Sussex County).
I recall providing a description of the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland, Ohio that had repeatedly caught fire because of petrochemical pollution as it flowed into Lake Erie. I described Lake Erie as a dead polluted wasteland only capable of sustaining algae blooms and trash fish species.
I finished up my Rotary presentation with a question. I asked whether the Rotarians felt as a nation we would finally start to acknowledge the damaging environmental course we were on or whether we would continue to ignore the air and water pollution issues and our bodies would simply adapt and morph in way that would let us survive the pollution like the carp living in the fetid depths of Lake Erie had done. There were no audience comments and the meeting emcee simply said, "Well, you have certainly given us something to think about."
I'm happy to report that because of mandated clean air and water legislation passed over the last 50 years Lake Erie is again a viable sport fishery with swimable water beaches. The acidity levels in many of the Adirondack high country lakes have improved enough to support viable Brook Trout populations. And we haven't had to adapt to a polluted environment like the carp that lived in the fetid depths of Lake Erie 50 years ago.
Author Richard Lewis is Vice President of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association. Richard, his wife Jakie, and their two dogs live four miles west of Gettysburg in the Adams County, Pennsylvania countryside where they enjoy growing fields of wild flowers, taking their grandchildren on walks, and watching the deer, turkeys, fox, mink, muskrats, beavers, kingfishers, bald eagles, waterfowl, and other wildlife along Marsh Creek that flows 75 yards from their front doorstep.