Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Preserving the Gift

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Preserving the Gift

Chief Seattle was a Susquamish leader who lived in the mid-1800s on the islands of the Puget Sound. The courageous warrior is famous for a letter he is credited for writing to the Congress in 1854 when the president requested to purchase some land from the Indians.

I used to teach my students about the letter as a compare and contrast between the Indians and the settler’s philosophy about the earth and its ownership and preservation. The noble chief states that “every part of the earth is sacred to my people...We are part of the earth and it is part of us.” He charges the settlers to teach their children that “what befalls the earth befalls all the sons of earth..” and that “earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth.”

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 at the urging of Senator Gaylord of Wisconsin. He himself was shocked when 20,000 people took part in the observation. That day marked the beginning of a new focus on environmental politics. Enactments of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act followed in the years that passed. Events like oil spills and nuclear accidents recently have driven home the need for concern followed by action.

Our awareness about our stewardship of the planet has improved over time, but we are far from where we should be in terms of our behavior. Some of us make a serious effort in our daily lives to reduce our ecological footprint, but we can always do more. Being a good citizen of the planet requires constant vigilance and maintenance.

Families can celebrated Earth Day on April 22 and all month long by doing things like building a birdhouse, planting a tree, growing sunflowers, learning how to compost, increasing the use of rechargeable batteries and disposing of hazardous materials properly. Help your kids write a letter to one of their representatives about their views on the environment. The list of possibilities is endless. April at Port Discover will be marked by programs like “Water, Water Everywhere,” “Thank You, Earth,” and “Green Thumb Challenge.”

“Kids Grow” a community garden project being done through a partnership among Port Discover, Project Grow and Albemarle Food Bank and is being sponsored by Ag Carolina that will begin this month. Produce grown in the raised garden beds behind the center will be used as healthy snacks during programs for kids, and the surplus will be contributed to the Albemarle Food Bank.

The outdoor area will provide more teaching opportunities and a beautiful setting for learning in downtown Elizabeth City. Stop by for a visit and check on our progress or volunteer. Bring your friends, children, and grandchildren and share in the excitement.

As our native forefather said in his letter, “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself...Preserve the land for all children, and love it.”

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