Becoming good stewards

Phinizy Swamp and others promote nature awareness

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Aaliyah Green has a simple philosophy for a better planet: Teach young people to understand and appreciate the world they live in.

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Aaliyah Green, an education specialist and ecologist, monitors conditions at Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Aaliyah Green, an education specialist and ecologist, monitors conditions at Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.

"If you have a kid who's asking good questions, who is interested and fascinated, it might be the beginning of something," said Green, an education specialist at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park -- where every day is Earth Day.

The 1,100-acre park plays host to thousands of students and visitors each year, offering children what is almost always their inaugural opportunity to learn about reptiles, examine cattail leaves under a microscope or count macroinverterbrates in creek water.

Green, who holds ecology and animal science degrees from the University of Georgia and Rutgers University, hopes some of those visitors will take home an interest in the environment that will lead them to great careers and accomplishments.

"I think almost everyone who has gone into science, or something to do with the environment, can probably name one specific experience that got them interested," she said. "I hope, when they come out here, this is it."

Green's role as an educator dovetails with a broader mission as a Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy research ecologist studying -- among other things -- the impact of urban centers on reptile and amphibian life in nearby swamps and floodplains.

The academy, established in 1996 with the mission of promoting environmental stewardship through education and research, is among a growing number of organizations in the Augusta area that focuses on environmental education and awareness.

Others include Savannah Riverkeeper, a stewardship organization linked to similar groups in other river basins; an Augusta chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, which promotes the use of technology and materials that help promote sustainability and conservation of natural resources; and the Central Savannah River Land Trust, which helps preserve stream buffers and other sensitive natural areas through conservation easements and other means.

Augusta is also home to the CSRA Air Quality Alliance, a consortium of local governments and agencies working together to improve air quality in the region; and the governors of Georgia and South Carolina now maintain task forces to work with one another on the complex issue of sharing the jointly owned Savannah River and its water.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

EARTH DAY events

NIGHT SOUNDS: Augusta-Aiken Audubon will hold a night sounds event at 7 p.m. Friday at Silver Bluff Audubon Preserve near Jackson. Meet at the education building to go out and listen to night sounds such as frogs and owls. Alice and Doug Walker will lead the trip. Visit augustaaikenaudubon.org for more details.

PHINIZY SWAMP SONGBIRD WALK: Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy will offer a songbird walk at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday. Cost for members is $8 and for nonmembers is $10. Meet in the parking area at the park. Ruth Mead will lead with help from Anne Waters and Lois Stacey.

GREEN MUSIC: The Allegreen Music Festival will be held April 22-24 in Union Point, Ga., with tickets available for $50. For more details, visit www.allegreen.com/.

GREEN DASH: Atlanta's Earth Day 5K will be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Piedmont Park. E-mail greendash5k@ gmail.com for more details.

AIKEN EARTH DAY: Hopelands Gardens in Aiken will be the site of the city's seventh annual Earth Day Celebration, also sponsored by Savannah River Remediation, on April 29. Gardens will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with tours and exhibitors. Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh will offer a lunchtime welcome. Bring a sack lunch. For more details, call Public Services Director Tim Coakley, (803) 642-7613.

FISH FRY: Savannah Riverkeeper will hold a River Rendezvous Fish Fry commemorating the organization's 10th anniversary of programs to support wise stewardship and public awareness of the Savannah River. The event will be at the Boardman River Pavilion, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at 1197 Old Plantation Road in North Augusta, with food catered by Dye's Southern Catering and beverages provided by United Distributors. Tickets are $35 or $60 per couple. For details, visit savannahriverkeeper.org or call (706) 826.8991.

CAMPUS EARTH DAY: Georgia Health Sciences University will hold its first community and campus Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Activities will be held in the green space off Laney-Walker Boulevard between Pavilion III and the Student Center. In case of rain, the event will move to the lobby of the Health Sciences Building. Parking is available in the old Fat Man's lot on Laney-Walker, at Kroger on 15th Street and the Laney High School Stadium. Shuttles will be provided from the Laney Stadium to the Health Sciences Building in the event of rain. For more information, visit www.georgiahealth.edu/green/.

FIND MORE EVENTS at georgia. sierraclub.org/earthday/index.aspx.

About Earth Day

The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970 -- a time when the Savannah River near Augusta was heavily polluted, and most air emissions were barely tracked or regulated.

Almost everyone drove huge cars and trucks fueled by leaded gas. Awareness of the environment, and the public health implications of pollution, were largely unknown or misunderstood.

According to the Earth Day Network's Web site, Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, came up with the idea after a massive oil spill in California in 1969. He recruited helpers and launched a media campaign to promote the idea.

"As a result, on the 22nd of April, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies," the network's summary said. "Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values."

Learn more about how Earth Day got its start at earthday.org.


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