2018-04-19 / Life in Leelanau

Earth Day 2018: What does it mean to Leelanau County folks


SUNSHINE CRISANTO and Chloe Crick and (from left) were among more than a dozen students at the LIFT teen center in Suttons Bay who volunteered last week to help get the Leo Creek Preserve ready for Earth Day activities. SUNSHINE CRISANTO and Chloe Crick and (from left) were among more than a dozen students at the LIFT teen center in Suttons Bay who volunteered last week to help get the Leo Creek Preserve ready for Earth Day activities. Leelanau County residents will celebrate Earth Day along with others across the country through environmental efforts and projects.

And some won’t be celebrating, as they consider the one-day more of an effort to promote a political agenda.

Regardless of how Earth Day has evolved, its roots were planted during a time of less political divisiveness nearly half a century ago.

The U.S. adopted April 22 as Earth Day in 1970 as an environmental teach-in. For many, the day continues to be marked as a renewed commitment to conscious environmentalism. The 2018 theme as declared by the Earth Day Network revolves around ending plastic pollution.

But for many Leelanau residents, Earth Day represents a time to consider their commitment to a cleaner peninsula, cleaner lakes and cleaner land.

Leland resident Emma Elinor Dante said she views Earth Day as a chance to recognize the work that’s being done in our area to sustain and conserve natural resources.

“Sometimes it feels like it’s just too late for the planet,” Dante said. “But at least we are able to take care of our Mother Earth here in Leelanau County, and that gives me hope. Sustainability of life is built on hope.”

Tim Stein, president of the Cedar Rod & Gun Club also supports Earth Day efforts.

“I think the concept is good, and anything we can do to promote the health of our environment is good,” Stein said. “Personally, do I do anything for Earth Day? No. But we do have an annual Clean Up Day at the gun club.”

Each year, the Cedar Rod & Gun Club sponsors the clean up to rid the property of any non-biodegradable items. Members and non-members are encouraged to attend. This year’s outing is scheduled for May 5 from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Earth Day has taken on too much of a political bent for others, including Omena resident Mary Bowen. Her name is familiar to Enterprise readers as a frequent writer of letters to the editor taking on Democratic politicians and policies.

“I view this group as no more than another extended arm of the Democrat party with its hands very likely in the pockets of the taxpayers, attempting to indoctrinate the young, and as they say on the front page of their website… register voters. Yes, I’m a bit cynical,” she said.

The founder of Earth Day is former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was inspired by an oil spill in 1969 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The disaster spurred him to promote public consciousness about air and water pollution, which gave birth to our nation’s first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

According to earthday.org, Earth Day 1970 achieved “a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders.” Some 20 million Americans participated in massive coast-to-coast rallies protesting a deterioration of the environment.

Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife realized they shared common values, the website states.

Empire resident Linda Stevenson views collaborations of like-minded environmental movements — and Earth Day itself — a bit differently.

Stevenson said Earth Day reminds her of a statement in the Bible.

“For me, Earth Day brings to mind that famous Golden Rule from the Bible that says, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’” she said. “We know we wouldn’t throw our trash onto our neighbor’s property, and wouldn’t want them to do that to us, but do we live by the higher meaning of that quote? Do we trash talk, or even think unkindly or unclean thoughts about our neighbor?

“Even in the bigger picture, while we do our best to keep our roads, oceans, lakes and landscapes free of trash and debris, keeping our ethics and behavior pure, kind, and clean, and in accord with what we would want in return, will naturally do far more in keeping our precious earth clean and free of unwanted contaminants.” area that a lot of organisms are attracted to.

“It’s a great way to make soil more fertile.”

Just how well the biochar helped the soil will be witnessed later in the growing season. Thornhill will divide the garden in half — one half with the charred material and the other without.

“We’ll see if there are differences in the plants growing,” she told the teenagers.

Thornhill has also been working with students at the Leelanau Montessori Public School Academy to grow oyster mushroom totems.

Back at the preserve, a resourceful Thornhill collects materials (coffee grounds, corn husks and chicken droppings among others) which are transformed into compost used a fertilizer.

About 20 “heritage” blueberry bushes planted on the property in the 1970s are also growing there. But they haven’t produced much.

Thornhill, with advice from the Michigan State University Extension, pruned the bushes substantially last fall to encourage new growth and improve fruit yield.

“Last year, we picked about 1 1/2 pounds per plant. We should be getting closer to 10 pounds each,” Thornhill said.

All the produce grown in the gardens is donated to the Leelanau Christian Neighbors food pantry in Lake Leelanau.

Continuing the green theme, volunteers have also installed a solar panel on site to produce electricity to operate a well at the preserve and Maple City artist Bill Allen designed and constructed the outhouse.

“Last year we had 1,000 people come through the preserve,” Thornhill said. “And we figure at least this number will visit this year.”

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