About six million Canadians are expected to participate in events across the country to mark the upcoming Earth Day, April 22, according to the national umbrella organization overseeing the celebrations.
Jed Goldberg, president of the Toronto-based Earth Day Canada, said the United Nations-recognized initiative was a growing concern as from its humble beginnings in 1970 in the United States, the occasion was now being marked in more than 180 countries and territories by more than one billion people.
"Earth Day is a day you reflect with what is going on with our environment, what challenges we' re facing, what needs to be done to deal with our problems, but most importantly what solutions are available to local people in their community to help deal with the issue," said the solar energy advocate.
"It is our view that the most important environmental work that gets done is the work that' s done in neighborhoods and communities, not necessarily the work that' s done by a whole country or a by some worldwide body."
Lorna Gibbs is one of those people getting it done in her neighborhood. As a committee member for Earth Day Vancouver, which is being marked on April 30 due to the Easter long weekend the week previous, the elderly but spry Gibbs said she expected anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people to turn out for the event at Everett Crowley Park.
The 40-hectare park in the far corner of southeast Vancouver is no ordinary park as it was logged extensively in the 1920s before serving as the city landfill from 1944 to 1967. After being covered with dirt and allowing nature to take its course, despite the extreme changes in its original topography, it is now Vancouver' s fifth largest park and open for all to enjoy.
Gibbs said about 1,000 trees, mainly evergreens, fir and cedar, would be planted at the site on Earth Day and invasive plant species, such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan blackberry, among others, would be removed to aid in the site' s natural recovery.
"Everything starts with you, with one person individually taking the initiative and enlisting like-minded people. The government can' t do everything, and we are the government really, so by coming out and planting, we not only have the fun of a day in the park, we have our own tree. We can come back and visit during the year, keep the weeds back and feel really a part of nature."
In addition to tree planting, other Earth Day activities at Everett Crowley include picking up rubbish around the park and displays showcasing the various wildlife and birds that live in the area, coyotes, eagles, hawks, raccoons, skunk, amphibians, rodents, butterflies and other insects, among them, to let the public know how to safely interact with nature.
Gibbs said the displays were especially popular with school children who were especially switched on to the purpose of Earth Hour.
I think our youngsters are doing a good job of that because they are the ones who encourage us to recycle that paper, take that bottles back and turn off the lights. They are always after their parents and their grandparents to be considerate of the Earth. Our new generation is far more environmentally aware than we were."
A group that works in environmental issues year-round is Evergreen. The non-profit, Vancouver-based charity has a mandate of bringing people and nature together for the benefit of both. On April 16, the group is celebrating its 20th anniversary of "bringing nature back to cities" with an event at Jericho Beach.
Among the activities are a tree and shrub planting to restore a critical habitat at the park, a native plant sale and a fair featuring exhibitors who promote local food, ecology and sustainability year-round.
"Earth Day definitely gets more and more popular, there' s more people involved every year. People' s awareness of our impact on the Earth gets bigger every year so we like to offer them an opportunity to come down and get hands-on and do something concrete to help," said Andrew Appleton, Evergreen' s regional program manager for B.C.
"People are starting to realize that their own individual actions have a lot to do with making the Earth healthier so that they can take small steps every day that make every day Earth Day."
Appleton tries to make his own difference by cycling to work as often as he can and by growing his fruits and vegetables in his home garden. He adds environmental sustainability is something everyone needs to address, not just governments, and it primarily comes down to people' s individual actions and what people choose to do individually.
"People want to really seriously consider what they' re doing as far as their transportation choices, as far as what they purchase, as far as what they throw away. How they use water. How they affect air quality and how they' re dealing with things like food, whether or not they are accessing locally grown food and whether or not they are taking steps to grow their own food," he said.
"I' m very keen on growing my own food. I have a big fruit and vegetable garden at home. My kids garden with me, love to create our own food and we' re really seriously considering getting a chicken coop this year. The city of Vancouver allows chickens now so we' re very interested in building a chicken coop this year." [ Appleton added in China, a country where cars now rule the urban roads, he suggested people take a rethink to a traditional mode of transport that is both environmentally friendly and healthy.
"The traditional methods, including cycling and those kinds of things, are usually the best ones. Modern techniques and modern technology doesn' t necessarily mean things are better. The bicycle is a really elegant, simple way to move people around. I think larger towns in North America could learn a lot from that."