If you learned from Lynda Garvin’s column in the News-Bulletin last week that “April Means Earth Day,” did you know that this special celebration started 51 years ago, on April 22, 1970?

Today, Earth Day reminds us of our duty to recognize the fragility of our natural world. Earth Day also invites us to celebrate the beauty of our world, while asking us to imagine a healthy planet, to contribute meaningfully to solutions and to make all of our days Earth Day.

The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Restore our Earth.” Across the globe scientists, nonprofits, businesses, governments and individuals are examining natural system processes and emerging green technologies to restore the world’s ecosystems and forests, conserve and rebuild soils, improve farming practices, restore wildlife populations, and reduce the burden of plastic from our oceans, lakes and waterways.

Around the world from us, in East Africa, students at the Blessed Valley Schools in Kampala, Uganda, and local residents comb the beaches of Lake Victoria, fishing out plastic that is artfully re-purposed into chairs to be sold in the marketplace. Some 2,700 miles north of Uganda, in Vamvakou, Greece, virtual Earth Day workshops are devising next-generation rapid decomposition materials to replace today’s plastics and are attracting volunteers to collect plastic and other trash from beaches.

Closer to home, your Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting or partnering with local initiatives that invite you to make a positive impact on our Earth!

Earth Day and Science Fiesta Days at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area, April 30-May 3: Join us for our first socially-distanced outdoor event! Many organizations will have booths and attractions, including Smokey Bear and live animals. On each of these four days, there will be fun and interactive activities to celebrate our Earth.

City Nature Challenge: this is worldwide event that now includes Valencia County! Folks interested in this nature challenge can make their own sightings at Whitfield or participate in a guided hike at Whitfield from Friday, April 30, through Monday, May 3.

Silent auction by the Friends of Whitfield: Help support our partner, the Friends of Whitfield, a local nonprofit organization whose programs sustain the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. If you are interested in obtaining a gorgeous and unique Aldo Leopold bench or if you need supplies to start your own garden, bid on these and other items during this online silent auction. Hundreds of items donated by local businesses will be up for bid through May 3, all found here charityauctionstoday.com/auctions/friends-of-whitfield-online-auction-21519

There has never been a better time to reduce “COVID-19 Cabin Fever,” by getting outside, where you can celebrate the Earth with us, enjoy some sun (while restoring your Vitamin D levels) and support local conservation efforts.

On a related topic, our district is now accepting applications for the Dan Goodman Soil & Water Conservation and Environmental Improvement Award. This is an annual award for $1,000 to one or more deserving high school students residing within the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District who have demonstrated a high regard for conservation and the environment.

The objective of giving these awards is to stimulate activities, teaching and learning, and to reward those who have been active in conservation. Any enrolled high school student resident in our district may apply for this competitive award. Strong applicants document all their past projects, services, or activities related to soil and water conservation, agriculture or the environment.

I’ll close with a nod to my sister, Sarah Hautzinger, who will be the guest speaker at the Colorado Springs Unitarian Universalist Church’s Earth Day celebration. Sarah is honored to add her voice to this celebration of Mother Earth, and plans to share this quote from author Wendell Berry:

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and thse great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

(Andrew Hautzinger is the district director of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District.)

Andrew Hautzinger, guest columnist