by SC Reporter Teresa Vazquez
Since 1970, April 22 is set aside to celebrate it. This Earth Day might look different as pandemic guidelines are followed. But the beauty of Earth Day is that it’s meant to celebrate nature— an organically socially distanced space.
The first Earth Day took place as a movement to raise consciousness of the state of the planet, according to the official Earth Day website. It tackled pollution and its effect on the environment and human life.
As time has passed, it remains a day for raising awareness while celebrating everything the planet has to offer and is “widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world,” according to the Earth Day site.
On Sanibel, the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge holds annual Earth Day events with the goal of getting people to honor the planet. Admission to the refuge’s Wildlife Drive will be free to cyclists and hikers on that day.
“We want to get people outdoors! On bicycles, on their feet, in kayaks – anyway that doesn’t involve emissions and pollution,” Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland said. “We want them to slow down, look at nature, and be inspired. Whether it inspires you to paint a bird portrait, teach your children nature lessons, or save the world – just do it!”
Protectors of most of the island’s underdeveloped land, “Ding” is committed to educating the community about the importance of conservation. To celebrate the earth, Westland encourages people to lower their carbon footprint.
“Stop wasting water. Decrease plastic in your life. Pick up trash on the beach. Read about how to improve your conservation mentality,” Westland said. “Donate to a conservation organization of your choosing.”
Keen on conservation, Earth Day is particularly significant to the City of Sanibel. With its partners “Ding” and the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, 67% of the island is set aside for conservation.
Besides “Ding” and SCCF, the island is plentiful with organizations focused on celebrating the earth. Such as the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society, and more.
In their own way they honor the earth and make Sanibel a sanctuary island. Entering the Island visitors are prompted to join the cause, with a welcome sign that reads “do enjoy, don’t destroy.”
On Sanibel Earth Day is a year-round celebration. Earth, irreplaceable, home to all—honor it.
“People can make the best of Earth Day by heightening their awareness of their own impact on Mother Earth,” Westeland said. “We strongly urge that you change one habit that leaves a heavy footprint – whether that’s drinking out of plastic bottles or planting your yard with native vegetation. No effort is too small.”