In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honour the Earth and the concept of peace. Originally it was celebrated on March 21st the first day of spring in the Northern hemisphere; later Earth Day was switched to April 22nd to fit in with other similar initiatives.
Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage, Earth Day activities in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio summit of course being the one that gave us the concept of Sustainability as a universal goal and flagged Climate Change as the single most important environmental challenge, or rather climate change as a symptom of a wider malaise: our addiction of fossil fuels. Since that historic date at which governments agreed to limit emissions in order to prevent dangerous climate change, world carbon emission have risen by 44% and with a dwindling remaining carbon budget the world is facing some tough choices.
Earth Day is a chance to celebrate the many success of the environment movement to date and to frame the struggle we have before us to shift the world onto a sustainable footing. While the carbon clock is ticking, grass roots action around the World is shifting the balance. The Divest in Fossil Fuels movement is gaining momentum, climate justice action groups are springing up everywhere and the anti-fracking, anti-tar sands and anti-Keystone pipeline movements have all become global phenomena. While there is still so much to do, there is also much to celebrate and how better to celebrate that with action?
Cae Bodfach: Llanfyllin, there have been several updates in here of the community endeavour directed towards the field in Llanfyllin, adjacent to the Cain River and health centre carpark which has come into community management. So far, together with the Cain River group, Llanfyllin Town Council, The Primary School and High School as well as numerous local residents, we have established an small orchard and forest garden there, with old fruit tree varieties of apple, pear and plum plus local provenance hazel, elder, blackthorn and dog rose as support species. The orchard boasts blackcurrant, raspberry and chokeberry with a groundcover of herbs like lemon balm, mint and strawberry. It is designed to be easy to maintain and to be beneficial to wildlife, creating habitat and feeding opportunities for creature and human alike.
Map showing the community plantings so far at Cae Bodfach and the proposed Willow coppice.
Myself and Dewi Morris have proposed to the town Council that a fitting next step would be to plant a 2 metre wide strip of willow coppice along the fence line between the Wetland and the field. This would create a shelter belt and windbreak; provide more wildlife habitat as well as a corridor down to the river.
The maintenance plan is to coppice it every few seasons to provide a free fuel resource for residents, or materials for basketry and other projects. We have a ready available source of fast growing willow and a small budget for the other materials needed and the plan is work with the high school students as part of their landscape studies as well as residents to help plant the hedge. And we hope to do this on Earth Day. We are pleased to announce also that the Llanfyllin Primary school will be helping on Earth day, their mission will be to plant strawberry plants around the forest garden!
I thought it would be a fitting and symbolic gesture of willingness to work together as community to protect and enhance our environment and to find much more Eco sensitive and lower carbon emitting ways of living. Look out for updates and I hope to see you on April 22nd.
Steven Jones is an independent permaculture teacher, consultant and forest gardener.
Dewi Morris can be found at closeencounterswithnature.org.uk