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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Earth Day provides service work

By Lyndel Owens
News Editor

Friday, April 11, 2008

Time-strapped but still looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day? Baffled by or unaware of the holiday? Though it is a relatively recent concept, it has been a catalyst for environmental actions and consciousness since its inception in 1970. Today, the holiday is notorious for motivating teams to take part in a little environmental activity.

In fact, there are two 'Earth Days.' The national holiday takes place on April 22, but the United Nations also sanctioned an international earth day to coincide with the spring equinox around March 20.

This Earth Day was signed into effect in late February of 1971, with founder John McConnell proclaiming, "May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."

Keeping that mildly "Star Trek"-ish rally cry in mind, one begins to wonder how they can best celebrate the day. Most people recognize it's about more than sticking that gum wrapper in a pocket instead of smooshing it underfoot, and the day has continued to thrive as a time devoted to service and community members working in alliance to improve their environmental conditions.

Still, finding great activities nearby can be tough, so we decided to promote some proactive environmental consciousness-raising and develop a guide to events at St. Olaf, in Northfield and in the Twin Cities and beyond.

First on the list are a bevy of activities sponsored by the student organization Environmental Coalition, beginning on April 22, with a Low Carbon Diet Day in the cafeteria. Tuesday's lunch selection will feature items whose procurement emitted significantly less carbon dioxide than usual.

So try something new and remember that an excessive helping of carbon dioxide isn't crucial for a tasty meal. Later that evening, after digestion, check out history department chair Jim Farrell's follow-up lecture in Viking Theatre.

Two days post-Earth Day, on April 24, adventurer and environmental activist Eric Larson '93 will deliver a presentation chronicling the effect of global warming. Larson has been "thinking snow" the past 12years while adventuring around the extreme areas of the globe. If you're interested, you can attend his lecture about his upcoming 2009 expedition -- a trip that will take him to both poles within one year to raise awareness about climate change.

Afternoon spring tree planting with biology professor and natural lands director Gene Bakko is slated for Friday. The event is a precursor to the big buckthorn pull on Saturday at Hauberg Woods city park from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in conjunction with Northfield community organizers. A celebratory contra dance is also being planned for Saturday evening.

Some of the places and times for these events are not yet determined. For updates, contact Kelsey Bauer '09 at For information on the contra dance contact Lori Middledorp at

Dan Hudson, who also works in the St. Olaf Bookstore, began the annual buckthorn pull four years ago to reduce the presence of the invasive species. Overall, the group has cleared about two-and-a-half acres and plans to re-pull in the cleared area again.

"This is the kind of thing where not all governments have the resources to tackle this problem," Hudson said. "In our situation, it's left to volunteers to step in and do it. And we're partnering with the city to some extent."

The buckthorn pull will be an all-day event the Saturday following Earth Day, but you do not have to remain on site the entire time -- a few hours' work will be appreciated.

No pre-registration or fee is required, but if you to go be sure to wear long sleeves and pants and bring your lunch.

A Cannon River cleanup is also being coordinated. Dates and times will be released later, but the event will be within walking distance from campus. For additional information contact John Van der Linden '10 at

The 'City of Lakes' is sponsoring its own watershed cleanup at 30 plus sites within the area on April 19, the weekend before Earth Day from 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Because of its relatively short time frame, this event is ideal for those spending a day in the city and still want to volunteer. Once again, no fee or registration is required but you have to bring your own lunch.

Afterwards, most sites snack on donated bagels or pizza and learn about environmental education. Check for more information at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's website at

After the watershed cleanup, stay in town the following morning for the 5K Minneapolis Recycle Run around Lake Harriet. Mini-marathons are a great way to usher the spring in, especially since the race commences at 9 a.m. Same-day registration fees are $30.

All proceeds benefit future Earth Day watershed clean-up events and participants receive a free water bottle. More information concerning this event can also be found on the Park Board's website. These two events, sponsored by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, are perfect for the time-strapped do-gooder.

Wondering what you can do to celebrate the environment while remaining in the great indoors? Want to participate, but uneasy about the idea of sacrificing a weekend date night?

Well, he or she will swoon at the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis, where the string exhibit "Paradise Lost: Climate Change in the North Woods" runs through April 27. The exhibit showcases "the roost of climate change, the distinct beauty and functionality of northern climates, and what actions we can take -- both individually and collectively -- to preserve the environment."

Though late April is a busy time for many people, these activities promise to reinvigorate and boost energy. You'll be sure to connect with new people and strengthen your connections to the larger community while clearing, dancing, running or taking in a gallery. As Bauer pointed out, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Earth Day: "You can do any number of things."

I think that Earth Day can be a helpful reminder that environmentalism can be an year round cause, whether it's a simple call to a legislator, reconnecting with our local ecosystem with a walk on the our natural lands, or bringing your own coffee cup to the Cage.

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