by Becki Retzlaff
Every Earth Day I am reminded of two things. The first is when I was a teenager, and my friends and I volunteered to plant trees at a park near my home in Michigan. We labored all day to carefully plant little pine tree seedlings in long rows in an old farm field next to the park. It was the first time that I became aware that Earth Day was a thing. Every time I visit Michigan and drive by that park, I look at the trees – which are now very big and mature – that I helped plant. I pointed them out to my kids and told them that the trees will hopefully be there long after I am gone.
The second thing that I think about is only loosely related to Earth Day. It is a story that my friend Sharon Roberts, a retired biology professor, told me. Sharon is a birdwatcher and is the biggest fan of birds that I have ever met. One day she saw a bird fly into a tree and catch its leg between two branches, and even after struggling over and over to free its leg, it could not get out because its leg was wedged tightly between the branches. Sharon called the fire department and asked them to free a bird that was stuck in a tree. Surely, they laughed at her, but after she convinced them that a bird was actually stuck in a tree, the firefighters came out with a ladder truck and rescued the bird. They brought it down the ladder and gave it to Sharon. She took it back to her lab on campus and kept it under close supervision overnight, and after she was convinced that it was fine, she freed it in the morning. I have no idea if this happened on Earth Day, but probably not. However, Earth Day always reminds me of stories of people doing little things and big things to help earth’s creatures, like saving a bird that was stuck in a tree, or planting trees that will outlive me.
Becki Retzlaff is the Director of the Academic Sustainability Program.
Learn about the SDGs & AU and our contributions related to this post.