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Earth Day offers a platform for environmental education in Durango – The Durango Herald

Earth Day offers a platform for environmental education in Durango – The Durango Herald

Earth Day offers a platform for environmental education in Durango – The Durango Herald

Educators and nonprofits highlight achievements, raise awareness about problems

John Palmer, right is the deputy maintenance superintendent for Colorado Department of Transportation. Dave Seiler, CDOT’s survey coordinator, picked up trash on Tuesday along U.S. Highway 550, just north of Durango. A crew of 15 CDOT employees collected 31 bags of trash from a 2-mile stretch. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Sometimes Earth Day feels insignificant. It can feel insignificant, like Flag Day and National Watermelon Day.

It serves an important role for Durango’s environmental groups, educators, and government agencies. Earth Day provides educators and environmental groups with an opportunity to improve environmental education and inspire the next generation of environmental leaders.

There are lots of positives to be proud of and reflect on. That is because of previous years’ community and public engagement, Mark Pearson, executive Director of San Juan Citizens Alliance (an environmental advocacy group with offices located in Durango and Farmington), said. It’s important to recognize that the current changes are the result people getting inspired and involved many years ago.

Earth Day 2022 will be Friday and will mark the first communitywide celebration of the day since two years ago. This is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Durango groups have taken advantage of the opportunity to start new projects, host activities, and highlight their efforts.

Durango School District 9R has hosted environmental events for students in the last two weeks. Park Elementary School Kindergartners planted trees at Santa Rita Park, April 15, and Miller Middle School held an event with recycled materials for door decoration.

Friday will be the launch of the Green Teams initiative by the school district. Students can join the group to help with initiatives such as recycling or battery collection.

Charlie Love, a Riverview Elementary School science teacher, presented potential plans for the Seeds Outdoor Inspiration Lab during a Board of Education meeting on April 12. The joint project would see Riverview Elementary transform into an outdoor learning centre with gardens, an apple orchard, and an aquaponics nursery.

4CORE, an energy and resource conservation nonprofit, will be leading Saturday’s Earth Day Celebrations at Rotary Park. The San Juan Mountains Association, which works to protect Southwest Colorado’s public land through education and stewardship will reopen their Nature Center on Sunday.

Even government agencies are getting involved. A crew of approximately 15 Colorado Department of Transportation employees gathered on Thursday morning to clean up a 2-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango. They collected 31 bags of garbage.

CDOT, which adopted this stretch of highway, aligned CDOT’s cleanup to coincide Earth Day.

We all feel like this morning we did so much to clean up that stretch of highway,” said Lisa Schwantes (CDOTs Region 5 in Southwest Colorado). CDOT, as an agency, wants to keep environmental goals and issues at the forefront.

Earth Day provides educators and environmental groups with an opportunity to expand their environmental education.

It is a day for celebrating what is good, raising awareness of the challenges, and finding ways to expand the tent to increase awareness and commit to doing what we can individually and collectively to improve the planet’s health, stated Stephanie Weber, executive Director of San Juan Mountains Association.

Dave Seiler (survey coordinator with Colorado Department of Transportation) carries a bag of trash he filled with litter on Tuesday along U.S. Highway. 550 just north of Durango. CDOT adopted the highway stretch and coordinated the agency’s cleanup with Earth Day. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Heidi Steltzer (a professor of environment at Fort Lewis College) and two FLC students will visit Telluride schools for Earth Day to discuss climate change, science and science.

Steltzer said that one of the talks’ themes is awe for Southwest Colorado’s environment. He hopes that the visits will provide an opportunity to engage young people with nature and spark their curiosity about it.

She said that if we can create a space in which each person feels wonder (for the environment), then we experience a shift within ourselves that leads to wanting to understand our Earth better.

Weber stated that students are not the only ones who should be interested in cultivating curiosity and caring for the environment.

Earth Day activities, campaigns, and events can help to raise awareness of local and global environmental problems among the Durango community, especially those who are just starting out in the area.

Weber stated that it has been a while since Durango hosted an Earth Day celebration. This year, we have an excellent opportunity to show many new transplants what our efforts are and what the environmental implications are for the new world they live in.

Weber, Steltzer, and Pearson all identified water as the most pressing environmental problem Southwest Colorado faces. They also said that there are many other environmental issues that Colorado residents and visitors must address.

Climate change is intertwined, which has reduced snowpack and worsened drought. Forest health remains a concern. Wildfires are becoming a more common part of the ecosystems in the region, but this is threatening their health. In addition, the impacts of increased recreation on San Juan National Forest or other public lands are becoming a concern.

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Weber said that Southwest Colorado faces many environmental challenges. Weber believes Earth Day and the environmental education it promotes are crucial.

The world’s most affected region is experiencing dramatic change. She said that it doesn’t take an advanced science degree in order to see that we are in severe drought, which is affecting agriculture and recreation. Education is key to helping people understand the serious challenges facing Southwest Colorado. This will have an impact on their day-to-day lives.

She said that the best way to preserve what we love about this area is as a community by understanding the impacts and working together to address them.

Park Elementary School Kindergartners help plant a London plane tree during Durango’s 42nd annual Arbor Day Celebration at Santa Rita Park. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

This goal of encouraging action collectively and individually for educators and environmental groups is at the heart Earth Day and their education efforts.

Pearson stated that they hope Earth Day inspires people to think differently about their personal lives and take advantage of policy opportunities.

These don’t require large shifts. Steltzer stated that each person decides what steps to take to improve the environmental condition. Some people might opt for an electric car, while some others may prefer to compost or recycle more.

It is important to create a community that supports individual actions and allows for collective learning. That is what Earth Day does, she said.

While Earth Day might seem like another holiday for some people, it’s not for Durangos environmental teachers and nonprofits.

It can seem ineffective or frivolous. Weber stated that it is possible to be cynical if you choose. But I think it is important to continue to raise awareness.

ahannon@durangoherald.com

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