By Barry Heifner of Western Institute for Lifelong Learning

SILVER CITY — In the 21st century The Natural World is under increased assault as rainforests are burned, toxic waste dumps litter the landscape and air and water become more polluted. 

Lakota activist and poet John Trudell summed it up when he said, “We must go beyond the arrogance of human rights. We must go beyond the ignorance of civil rights. We must step into the reality of natural rights because all of The Natural World has a right to existence and we are only a small part of it. There can be no trade-off.” Trudell died from cancer in 2015.

During April Grant County-area residents can honor The Natural World’s right to exist by volunteering during Gila Earth Day, co-sponsored by the Western Institute for Lifelong Learning. Earth Month is being celebrated with Gila Earth Day through virtual programming from participant organizations, classrooms, and individuals throughout the month.  

Among the local films to be shown on the Gila Earth Day Facebook page are the Gila Native Plant Society’s “How to Plant a Native Plant,” Green Energy Now’s “Rainwater and Green Infrastructure” and “Habitat Restoration on the Pitchfork Ranch.” 

The Gila Earth Day celebration will include a virtual book tour at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 22, with New Mexico PBS environmental reporter Laura Paskus speaking about her new book “At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate.”  The book tour will be live streamed on the Gila Earth Day Facebook page.  Alternate access will also be offered. There will be a question and answer session at the end of Paskus’ presentation. 

Gila Earth Day community actions

The Gila Earth Day celebration will continue from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24, with small, COVID-safe community actions. Participants can Restore Our Earth — one piece of Grant County at a time — by volunteering for a trash clean up, water quality monitoring and planting native plants in the Big Ditch Park led by the Silver City Watershed Keepers. The Heart of the Gila, in cooperation with the Santa Clara Action Committee, will clean up  Cameron Creek and the Southwest New Mexico Audubon Society will provide cliff swallow education programing. There will be some fun, kid-friendly activities as well.  

Volunteers are needed, but families, friends, neighbors and congregants are encouraged to gather safely and responsibly. Participating groups should consist of fewer than 10 people, wear masks and practice social distancing. 

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