Earth Day 2020 is Wild

by Eliana Brown, RORG Director

For a rain garden, every day is Earth Day. But, this year’s Earth Day is special – it’s the 50th Anniversary.

Thirty years ago people poured onto the quad for the 20th Anniversary event. At the time, I was in college studying General Engineering and Marketing. The excitement around that Earth Day and an even bigger event later that year caught my attention and inspired me to pursue grad studies in Environmental Engineering, changing the course of my life.

Fast forward to 2020 and Earth Day couldn’t be more different. Illinois is under a shelter in place order and classes are online. Very few people are out and about; in-person events are cancelled.

So, how are we going to celebrate Earth Day? A great list of virtual events is posted on the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment’s website. It includes one in real life event on Wednesday, April 22 (Earth Day proper) that encourages people to step outside at noon for 15 minutes in a physically distant/CDC recommended way. More info here.

This year, however, the most compelling Earth Day celebrations may be by wildlife, not humans. A red fox* kicked off the festivities last week by running along the National Soybean Research Center, where the RORG team normally works, headed towards the greenhouses. (Video by Allen Hall instructor Catherine Wiesener.)

A block away, a muskrat was enjoying the campus near RORG and Dorner Drive pond (as seen by Katrina Kowtowski, who works for Unit One at Allen Hall.) The RORG Team salutes these revelers and encourages humans to learn more about them and other wildlife by checking out the Wildlife Illinois website.

This year’s Earth Day may feel limiting as you shelter at home, but as the human footprint has grown smaller during this pandemic, we can also see what is possible in healing our planet if we choose to make that commitment. Now is a good time to think about what you’d like to remain when we can all return together. And who knows? You may be inspired to change the course of a planet.

Happy Earth Day.

Thanks to Marilyn Sanders for her assistance with this post.

*Per Extension Educator Peggy Doty, the fox in the video is a red fox (Vulpes vulpes). She notes: “though it is not very red it is a red fox” as identified by its black stockings. “The red fox are very urbanized but because the gray fox tends to be a woodland animal it most likely (never say never) will not be found in town.”

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