On science experiments, falcons, and rock-climbing

Audrey Hull

The sixth annual Earth Day celebration, sponsored by Greenfire, began this year on Saturday, May 1 at 9 a.m. with the annual Fox River cleanup along the north bank bordering the Lawrence campus. Volunteers convened at the entrance to the Memorial Union and proceeded to pick up trash until 10. Though the event is usually well-attended, the gloomy day appeared to have deterred several potential volunteers from showing up.Beginning at 10, festivities kicked off with a variety of information booths focusing on several salient environmental issues, including energy efficiency, environmentally friendly vehicles (such as the hybrid Toyota Prius), and wildlife rehabilitation, which featured a live owl. As a special addition to Earth Day, a climbing wall was brought in. Aided by members of the rock-climbing club, novices were encouraged to scale its height. Activities were free and open to the public.

The live music, courtesy of Lawrence’s Lower Six Brass Band, a staple of Earth Day, was particularly dynamic this year, despite the overcast day. Led by Greenfire president Stephen Rogness on trombone, the motley group paraded around Main Hall green from 11:30 through 1, followed by a cheering, shouting, stomping crowd.

This year’s feature was a presentation entitled “Protecting the Earth in a Time of Challenges” by state Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison). One of the strongest environmental advocates in the Wisconsin state Legislature, Black highlighted recent developments made towards environmental protection, discussed several remaining issues, and closed his address by outlining a few of the ways that individuals can positively affect the environment.

Black’s efforts towards environmental conservation have been recognized and honored with the Clean Water Action Council Environmental Advocate of the Year Award, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association Environmental Excellence Award, the Audubon Society Environmentalist of the Year Award, and The Nature Conservancy President’s Public Service Award, to name just a few.

At 2 p.m., members of Greenfire as well as other Fox Valley area residents cooperated in a literature drop to a projected 2,700 households in the Fox Cities. As part of a nationwide coalition of environmental organizations, this year Greenfire aspires to reach Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse, and Green Bay, aiming to contact 40,000 households across the state. The distributed information urges Wisconsin residents to contact their elected officials regarding recent attacks on environmental protections.

“Earth Day has always been a time when Americans come together to demonstrate their concern for the environment and acknowledge that we must care for our Earth if we are to care for ourselves,” said Steve Rogness, president of Greenfire.