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A love of the Earth


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It was a beautiful clear day in Southern Florida. The date January 28th 1986. I was in fifth grade at the time and a member of the Jr. Science Academy. I joined the club with the promise that one day I would be the one looking out the window back at earth. I doubt anyone was more excited than our Science teacher as we stood on the lawn with our faces to the sky. We watched as the speck of light ascended upward our teacher radiant with anticipation for this monumental occasion. The mood changed from delight to horror in what seemed like an instant. I heard the words “Oh no” muttered and turned to see tears blinding my teachers eyes. I like many of the other students were confused. These were not tears of joy. Something was amiss. With eyes turned upward we gathered together as our teacher pointed out the scene before us. The boosters ejected but the brilliant star in the cloud of smoke dropping from the crystal blue heavens was not normal. The Challenger Space Shuttle had exploded.

The months following the Challenger disaster brought clarity and closure. Extensive investigations revealed the failure of an O-ring on one of the boosters that allowed gas to leak out upon take off. Fingers were pointed and the blame passed from department to department and person to person  until the country moved on and forgot. Cities, schools and clubs did their best to honor those fallen through memorials. Our group of Jr. Scientist banned together with our fearless leader to ensure that no one would forget the crew on board the Space Shuttle Challenger that frightful day. The press was called. The dignitaries invited. The school witnessed as we each stood around a young newly planted tree and dedicated it in the memory of Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Renick. In

In 1993 I took a summer job with the City of Parks and Recreation Department in West Palm Beach teaching art and drama at different summer camps throughout the county. My last week of summer camp took me to the Christa McAuliffe Middle school in Lake Worth Florida. Being there reminded me of that day we placed plaques for each member of the Challenger team around the base of young tree. Last I knew the tree was torn down by a hurricane but the vegetable and herb garden at the middle school was vibrant and thriving.

Earth Day and Arbor Day reside in the month of April. It is only fitting as Basho told Annie and Jack in The Dragon of Red Dawn, “After something is destroyed by fire, a good new thing often takes its place…just as after the bleakest winter, beautiful flowers return with the spring.” When I think of Earth Day I am reminded of all the bounties Mother Earth gives us. The towering trees for shelter and shade. A babbling brook for respite and thirst. Flowers for beauty. Clouds for the rain that cleanses the dusty fields. It is our job as caretakers of this world to minister to the land. We each are charged with the task of keeping the grounds clean and beautifying the planet. The thing that moved me most about the memorials for the Challenger astronauts was the thoughtfulness of planting a tree and garden. It was not just an hour of band music and crafted speeches that die off with the close of the ceremony. I believe these seven men and women cared deeply for the earth and the galactic space around it. What better way to pay tribute than to plant a life that in return can help sustain us.

Caring for the earth should be an everyday mission. On April 22 the world will come together to celebrate our amazing planet. Many will join with local groups and organizations to plant, clean and educate. Here are just a few ideas to teach your family and friends about caring for our home and to usher in the glorious spring.

Trash Duty: Clean up the trash around the neighborhood, school, park, beach and highways. It is important to keep our beaches clean. Trash can be deadly to the native animals that live near and in the water. In addition to picking up trash along the shoreline we can plant grass and plants that aid in the building up of the dunes to deter erosion.

Graffiti Patrol: In the city where we used to live there was a graffiti task force that went out every morning at the crack of dawn looking for tags to clean up. Where we live now the city is not so concerned about vandalism. If your town does not have a system in place local volunteers can work together to keep the signs and fences free of graffiti.

Green Thumb: Plant a garden, trees, flowers or herbs. Use egg cartons as pots to start seeds. Learn how to compost. Composting is a way to recycle kitchen scraps and and yard waste. When done properly compost becomes a healthy chemical free fertilizer.

Earth Friendly: Switch to earth friendly cleaners such as the Shaklee brand of chemical free products. Spruce up the home with energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. Always ask if antibiotics are necessary. Dispose of harmful chemicals, batteries, cell phones, appliances and paint at designated depositories.

Conservation: Use less water by turning the water while brushing your teeth and taking shorter hot showers. Monitor the sprinkler system to avoid over watering the lawn. Start the dish washer when there is a full load. Adjust the washing machine to the size of the load. Quickly change loads as soon as the dryer stops. The dryer will not have to work as hard to heat back up again. Turn off the lights when leaving a room that is not occupied and unplug appliances when not in use.  Change out air filters. Make repairs to leaky faucets and toilets. Carpool, take the bus or ride a bike.

Declutter: Vow to live within your means. Buying less unnecessary items equals less stuff in the land fill. Sell, donate or freecycle unwanted items.

Recycle: If you do not have a recycling service help implement one or take your recyclables to a local school that has a recycling program. The money they earn goes right back into the school for programs and supplies.

Recycled art: Milk jug bird houses, pine cone bird feeders, paper necklaces, cardboard doll house, Egg cartons space ships, kids clothing and tote bags from t-shirts. Family Fun, Kaboose,

Ways to Celebrate: Enjoy a hike or picnic. Relax, connect with nature and enjoy the little things around you. Host an Earth Day Party. Have booths set up to teach your guests how to compost, seasonal cooking, plant a garden and recycle clothing and toys into something else.