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Edidtorial

Earth Day commitment, actions needed every day now more than ever

What happened to the family-friendly, resource-sharing, community celebration of Earth Day in Spokane?  It went diffuse with river cleanup events, two tree plantings, a neighborhood gathering, a documentary on animal agriculture, a music festival, a grocery-store tree give-away, petition signing at Gonzaga and some other events but no big educational event downtown or in Riverfront Park.

What happened is important, because in these times the earth-friendly, earth-protecting, clean-air, alternative-energy, clean-water, climate-change voices, advocates and efforts and awareness are vital.  People committed shared ideas to protect the earth and focused on the need for Earth Day to be every day.

National parks, national monuments, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Climate Change Accord are being undermined.  It feels like a time of struggle for the environmental movement, but Amanda Parrish, watershed program director at The Lands Council, said that in times of political despair like now it’s important to remember progress has been made decade after decade.  While we are still dealing with poor water quality in the Spokane River and forest practices can improve, there has been progress.

“We have come a long way. I’m hopeful,” she said.  “The Spokane River is cleaner, and has fewer metals and pollutants.  National forests no longer allow clear cutting.”

Also a sign of hope for her is The Lands Council’s work in partnership with high school students, taking groups on field trips and for summer hikes, involving people in planting trees.

In the past The Lands Council has been the hub of planning a big educational fair with a committee of volunteers.  Now instead of partnering with Spokane Riverkeeper, the Spokane River Forum, Inland Northwest Lands Conservancy, the Sierra Club and others, much work and partnering continues year round.

Mike Petersen, executive director of The Lands Council, had a broken leg so he sat at a table by Lake Arthur at Gonzaga University with folks from 350.org, offering two petitions: 1) to have the City of Spokane’s electricity come from 100 percent renewable resources and 2) for Avista to phase out their share of the Colstrip coal-fired plant in Montana.

Mike is optimistic that Avista being bought by Hydro One in Canada will speed the closing of that plant and the move to more renewable energy.  In fact, he expects that Spokane residents can have 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in 15 to 20 years.  He said Hydro One has a record for using renewable energy, and he applauded Avista establishing the largest solar array in the state near Lind.

He also pointed to the City of Spokane establishing swales or storm water gardens where polluted storm water can flow.  It can be filtered, trapping lead and zinc, not treating it.  Hydrocarbons sitting in the soil may be broken down by microorganisms. Mike also told of students at North Central High School’s lab studying forest fungi, which break down wood in forests, being used to break down hydrocarbons and PCBs (polychlorinatedbyphenals). Their testing continues.

Chris Bachman, wildlife program director, reported on work to not only recover the wolf population but also to encourage ranchers in Northeast Washington to modify grazing practices on public lands so their cattle have fewer encounters with wolves.  He has started the Inland Northwest Wildlife and Agricultural Cooperative to support rural communities in reducing conflict of predators with farm animals.

These are but a few ways Earth Day is every day. We need to protect our air, land and water.  We need to recycle, conserve energy, and plant gardens and trees. We need to be stewards of earth.

Mary Stamp - editor





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