The comedian George Carlin once famously said not to worry about the Earth, because, “The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas.” He predicted it would happen through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves or viruses that compromise our immune systems.
It felt like his prediction was coming true when Covid hit, causing the cancellation of Earth Day celebrations across the country, including here. But the human organism is a resilient one. Enough brainpower and technology thrown at a problem can at least bring a temporary solution, and immunizations are opening up the world again.
This year in Arizona, where global warming has meant prolonged drought, lengthy fire seasons and dangerously hot summers, Earth Week will be a “hybrid” event that’s both in-person (with masks and social distancing) and virtual, according to organizer Ellen Bashor, who notes that for the second year the event will offer several activities for kids.
“We made a lot of changes this year, really went through the CDC guidelines and the state and local guidelines and figured out what we could do that was safe,” says Bashor, who is program coordinator for the Prescott College Center for Nature and Place-Based Early Childhood Education and serves on the board of directors of the Arizona Association for Environmental Education, part of the North American Association for Environmental Education Affiliate Network. “We decided to do smaller events and spread them out over a week. We’re excited to do something, since last year was canceled.”
Granite Creek Cleanup
The 2021 celebration will kick off with a traditional in-person event, the Granite Creek Cleanup, on April 17, 8am-noon at multiple locations around the city. Volunteers must register in advance through the Prescott Creeks website (prescottcreeks.org). Drive-up check-in will be at Granite Creek Park, 554 N. 6th St. Preregistered participants will pull through to check in with their groups and collect packaged materials, which will be placed in the trunk of registrant vehicle. Distributed materials will include maps showing the overall area, assigned cleanup location and drop-off location(s), tee shirts, trash bags and masks, and premier sponsor materials.
The cleanup started in the 1980s through a city committee, and Prescott Creeks took it over in 2007. Since then it has worked with more than 6,000 volunteers, who have donated 13,000 hours to collect 49 tons of trash and debris.
Family Birding Week
Another major event, Family Birding Week, encourages families and friends to gather outdoors with a recording sheet, a local bird guide and gear like binoculars to watch for bird species from April 19-23. Birdwatchers can track birds and then submit their recording sheets, which help teach everyone about bird species and behavior and offer glimpses into the range of bird species in the area. Those who turn in their sheets will be eligible for a prize raffle.
Registering for Family Birding Week will get you a recording sheet to document the birds you see, recommendations from bigtime birders for where, when and how to birdwatch successfully, a local bird guide specific to the habitat you visit, and a chance to win a variety of awesome prizes, such as bird guides and binoculars for your future birding adventures.
The week-long program of virtual events will be announced online. These typically include workshops, panel discussions and a youth round table.
Flyers distributed through local schools will invite students to submit artworks for the Earth Day Challenge. Three of those works will be chosen for awards.
51st Annual Earth Day Celebration
On April 24, at the end of EarthWeek, the annual Earth Day celebration will take place in a roped-off area with a managed number of people at a time. Masks, hand-sanitation and social distancing will be integrated into the event.
“It’s always a gamble, but usually what we get is blasted by the spring wind,” Bashor said. “Hopefully the weather will cooperate.” The day will feature children and youth activities, educational booths and vendors, and a wildfire expo to teach people about wildfires and creating defensible space around homes. The number of booths and vendors will be limited this year so they can spread out, but free treats and prizes will still be on hand for participants. Children’s activities will include face-painting, planting and gardening, building with logs and blocks, painting community murals, discovering compost, and lots of games and tables. There will be free drinks and snacks as well.
While teaching environmental education at Prescott College, Bashor also works with the City of Prescott and local schools to get students out on trails and appreciate the environment.
One of the projects she is most excited about, and which will be open to the public when school is not in session, is the community nature center adjacent to Abia Judd Elementary school.
“It has beautiful granite and old trees, and is a place everyone can appreciate,” Bashor says.
You can find more details about EarthWeek 2021 at prescottearthday.org.