On the River – April 2013

I think “Act Local, Think Global” should be the tagline for April. April is Earth Month, a month-long commemoration and celebration of the first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970. Earth Day isn’t a day about picking up free handouts at an event – that foam stress ball of the Earth that will later get tossed aside as garbage. It isn’t a day for collecting as many flyers as you can about turning the lights off and not letting the water run while you brush your teeth. Those lessons, we should know. It’s about action. Earth Day is the day when you get serious about acting locally to help our globe.

Think Globally–Sinkholes: Florida has over 15,000 verified sinkholes. The most notable swallowed a man into the earth while sleeping in his bedroom near Tampa in February of this year. Sinkholes are formed because of our swiss cheese limestone geology, overconsumption of ground water from the aquifer, and the natural process of what happens to land when massive amounts of water pressure are removed from below.
Act Locally: Some of the largest consumers of water at home are our lawns, leaky pipes and toilets and older appliances. We put off getting things fixed all year. This Earth Month, fix those leaks, install low-flow appliances and fixtures in your home, and use water sparingly for your lawns and plants. (This saves your money, too.)
Think Globally–Manatees: Over 180 manatees have died so far in 2013, a record number for this time of year. The animals may be eating harmful algae out of desperation because their usual sea grass isn’t available. The sea grass isn’t available because of increased salinity in our waters due to excessive water use. Algal growth in our water is fueled by nutrient pollution from stormwater runoff that includes fertilizers, sewage, manure and pet waste.
Act Locally: Consider using native plants that encourage wildlife and often require minimal irrigation and fertilizer, eat organic produce and less meat, install a rain barrel, cut back on fertilizer, and pick up after your pet.
Think Globally–Natural FloridA: Florida’s landscape wasn’t engineered on a platted map, and we aren’t going to revisit the old Florida by allowing more of it to be paved with parking lots. What is needed is to rethink our personal landscapes and to determine how we can reconnect with old Florida in our own yards. Ecosystems begin with the plants we choose for our yards!
A healthy biodiversity includes the flowers and the bees, the trees and the birds, the rivers and the fish. Biodiversity allows us to enjoy the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the land we built our homes upon.
Act Locally: Think about your plot here on Earth and consider giving natural Florida a try in your own yard. Don’t become overly concerned with pests; in fact, it is a lack of biodiversity that creates a pest problem in the first place. Plants are the foundation of any healthy ecosystem, and your yard is a Florida ecosystem. Shake things up this Earth Day and reconnect with the beautiful natural Florida.

Celebrate Earth Day on Saturday April 20th for FREE!
Earth Day and Ecology Fair @ the Jacksonville Landing, 10 am-4 pm. Live music and kids’ craft projects with interactive workshops and activities. 2 Independent Dr #250, www.earthdayjax.com

Earth Day @ Trad’s Garden Center, 10 am-2 pm
Get hands-on planting tips and lessons to Go Green this Earth Day from the experts! Live music and kids’ craft projects. 8178 San Jose Blvd., www.tradsgardencenter.com

Earth Day @ Alpine Groves State Park. Hiking and natural life demos, music and crafts. 2060 State Road 13, Switzerland

MOSH celebrates Earth Day
April 21st, 1025 Museum Circle, 12-5 pm. Special, ecologically themed activities include terrarium and ocean globe workshops, scavenger hunt materials, birdhouse painting and more. $5. www.themosh.org/earthday.html

River City Challenge & Eco-Fest!
April 27th @ Friendship Fountain, 10 am-7 pm
You don’t have to get in a kayak to support the racers during this 3-mile and 8-mile race on the Southbank of the St. Johns River. Come out and enjoy a day of live music, an interactive KidZone, a vendor market, Jacksonville food trucks, SweetWater Brewing Co. libations. Free. www.rivercitychallenge.org

Reel Paddling Film Festival
April 26th @ MOSH, 1025 Museum Circle, 7 pm. Reel Paddling Film Festival showcases the world’s best paddling films. The festival inspires more people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push physical and emotional extremes, embrace the lifestyle and appreciate the heritage of wild places. Purchase tickets online, $10, www.rivercitychallenge.org/#!filmfestival/c1baw

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.