Thoughts from the field from Kal Stein, EarthShare's CEO
I was standing in the middle of a dry swamp in east New Orleans trying to avoid the fire ants while whacking invasive blackberry brambles and tallow bushes when it hit me: this was a very strange thing to be doing. After all, I could have been back in the French Quarter having a lovely meal instead of trying to help restore the Audubon Nature Center that had been wrecked by Hurricane Katrina years ago. Stranger still, I was accompanied by 60 other volunteers who were in the city for a conference about the Combined Federal Campaign.
Why on earth would people spend a day pulling weeds in the hot sun when they could be relaxing?
And yet we’re hardly alone. In fact, we're just like millions of people all over the country and world who volunteer to help out nature during Earth Month and throughout the year.
This was my third such event in April, the first one being a cleanup at Mission Bay Beach in San Diego where a group of us worked with Surfrider Foundation, an EarthShare member charity, to pick up trash. It’s something the surfers do every month. They also regularly test the water quality since beach closings are a fact of life in Southern California, especially after a storm when the run-off makes the surf unsafe for swimming.
In New Orleans we were saddened by the destruction to a once pristine nature center that spent three weeks under salt water following the big storm. The flooding also caused the death of the trees in the preserve. Since then the valiant Coalition to Save Coastal Louisiana staff has been fighting a mighty battle to replant and defend new trees against the relentless attacks of invasive species fueled by the rich soil and hot sun. For our small contribution, the staff asked us to clear four foot areas around the tree saplings they had planted last spring. Given the voracious undergrowth, it struck me that this seems to be almost an unfair fight for the Coalition, who have a small staff, not enough volunteers, precious few funds, but tons of heart.
After the day of service in New Orleans I joined volunteers from D.C. Surfrider, American Rivers, the Student Conservation Association, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and hundreds of neighbors from the D.C.-Metro area for the Earth Day Celebration after the annual clean-up of the river that runs between the east side of Washington, D.C. and Maryland. For fifteen years the Anacostia Watershed Society has organized local citizens to give their time dredging tires and gathering plastic bags from the river. We’ve got some great photos on EarthShare’s Facebook page – hope you’ll check it out.
So, what is it that motivates people to give their time and energy, doing the sweaty work of cleaning up our world in what are often uncomfortable situations involving mosquitoes and mud and heat?
I think that question is best answered by the winning poem from the River of Words Art & Poetry Contest, so I’d like to share it with you:
by Katie Thomas-Canfield, Stuart-Hobson Middle School
A trickle of hope,
A sprig of green,
We need to try and keep our waters clean.
So we paint our Anacostia a new hue,
Else its waters will never be blue.
A piece here, A piece there,
It just takes a few of us to care.
Happy Earth Day, everybody.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Thoughts from the field...or from the middle of a swamp: