Make every day Earth Day

Published 9:58 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2015

By Biff and Susan Andrews

As usual, the First Peoples had it right.

They believed we cannot own land, merely occupy it. They believed in a Great Spirit who gave us deer, bear, fowl, fish, corn and squash. Whenever they killed a deer or bear or ate a squash, they thanked the Great Spirit for his bounty, and the deer for his speed and the bear for his strength, the squash for its abundant seed.

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In short, they valued the natural world around them and appreciated its every aspect.

On this Earth Day, the original exhortation “Love your Mother” is more fitting than ever. Every year it becomes more incumbent on us, the current stewards of the land, to preserve it, protect it, defend it, and appreciate its every aspect. Mother Nature is under attack on all fronts — Pave her! Fertilize her! Use insecticides in and on her!

Every lawn must be perfect, no matter what the chemicals may be doing to the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and the creatures in them. Every kernel of corn must be perfect (and marketable), no matter what the genetically modified seed may be doing to bee colonies (and children). Every home must be kept at 74 degrees in the winter and 68 degrees in the summer, no matter that there’s no such thing as “clean coal” or that we haven’t figured out what to do with coal ash.

To be good stewards of the land and water, we must first learn to value it, love it and treasure its infinite variety.

When people really care about something, they will take care of it, nurture it. We in the Master Naturalist group try to cherish the world around us daily. We volunteer to clean it. We create nature trails. We study ways to stop invasive species. We spread the word that Mother Nature is undergoing hot flashes and that California drought and high food prices may be the result.

We care. When we take a walk in any area, we leave it cleaner than we found it. We paddle about on “our” lake in a canoe and scoop up Styrofoam, plastic bottles and stray toys. We volunteer to collect longleaf pine cones and black walnuts in order to reestablish Virginia’s original forests.

This Earth Day — and preferably every day — please take time to clean the Earth, to plant a native species (not a GMO), to voice your support for preserving green space. Recycle. Feed some birds. Encourage politicians to clean up coal ash.

Spend some time thanking the Great Spirit to whom you pray for nature’s beauty, bounty, and diversity.

Make every day Earth Day. Love your Mother. Please.

What will the land be like when our grandchildren have grandchildren?

One way to honor the spirit of Earth Day this year would be to visit the Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival April 23-25. It is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at