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Happy to Be Here: Earth Day at 50


Nearly 60 years ago, Franklin Russell published “Watchers at the Pond,” a book the reader doesn’t easily forget. Russell observes the life of a pond through every season.

He starts in January, where we will soon be, when all appears cold and dormant. But wait! There’s life stirring in the pond and the cycle begins – winter, spring, summer, autumn.

In January, the sun is turning the seasons around, the light is coming and spring will be here before we have time to notice.

Now is the time to get ready for Earth Day 2020. Public awareness of this planet’s limitations reached across the world 50 years ago, alerting populations that something must be done to save our greatest gift – the land and water that sustain us.

A group of Pennsylvania and New Jersey environment activists came together last week at Heritage Conservancy’s Aldie Mansion to make plans to bring others to the table with suggestions on contributing to the 50th Earth Day.

Dire warnings of climate change and effects we are seeing already make the next celebration more vital that ever. It’s time to take bold action despite messages that it may be too late to change the climate’s direction.

“We need to do something to raise awareness,” said Jeff Marshall, conservancy CEO. “We have to get people to see the connection between land and water.”

The goal is to grab attention, to do something memorable, a gigantic splash for the local watersheds.

There’s so much to contend with: plastics, farming practices, harmful chemicals, dying aquatic and bird species – the threats are overwhelming – but Marshall said, “Hope is the key.”

More than 40 Delaware Valley environmental organizations were invited to the early morning roundtable discussion to help propose regional civic action. Not all of the organizations could make the meeting but it is hoped that they will join the conversation.

The focus this spring will be “Protecting Our Waterways.”

Peter A. Eschbach, director of external affairs and communications for the Delaware River Basin Commission, joined the early morning meeting. He is at the heart of what Earth Day can be – focusing on the Delaware River and its tributaries, which include the wide reaching Neshaminy Creek, Tinicum Creek, Tohickon Creek, Poquessing Creek, Pennypack Creek and Perkiomen Creek, which flows into the Schuylkill and eventually Delaware Bay.

The Basin Commission launched the “Our Shared Waters” Facebook page in an effort to reach the more than 8 million people in the basin. He said the regional Earth Day effort was an opportunity for the Basin Commission’s partners to expand their reach and help promote events and knowledge about the environment.

The representative of Delaware Valley University noted a possibility for students to tie its annual A-Day celebration with the regional effort.

Bill Mitchell, executive director of Bucks County Parks and Recreation, talked about parks’ involvement. The Parks Department oversees eight parks, eight recreation sites, the Moravian Tile Works and the Stover Myers Mill, the Bucks County Horse Park and three airports.

“Not all people buy into climate change but they buy into their backyards,” said Jim Engel, executive director of Tinicum Conservancy, suggesting that the celebration can reach a cross section of the community.

Participants talked about single-use plastics and microplastics, insect sprays and pharmaceuticals, so many of the items that affect the Delaware’s 7-square-mile watershed. They touched on fish and other aquatic life, bird and other wildlife habitats, and the millions of people who depend on the waterways for their survival.

“The problem is so big,” Dave Johnson, executive director of the Land Trust stressed, reinforcing Marshall’s opening statement.

But just as in Russell’s pond, imaginations are stirring – ideas can start to take shape as we emerge from the Winter Solstice.

A meeting will take place sometime in January to start the planning for civic action around April 20. The Delaware Valley has an opportunity to join more than one billion people reimagining what we can collectively do for our global environment.

The Bucks County Herald is a sponsor of the community effort.