Earth Day & Science March Set For This Weekend

Apr 20, 2017

The 47th annual Earth Day Celebration is taking place Saturday. Locally, there will be a number of events, including the Earth Day Pensacola Festival, and cleanups in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. And, added to the mix for 2017 is the March for Science.

Again this year, the theme for the Earth Day Pensacola Festival is “Energy, Transportation & Sustainability.”

“Well, when you look at what has the biggest impact, you know it would definitely be energy and transportation,” said Eric St. Pierre, one of the organizers of Earth Day Pensacola. “By impact, what I mean is as far as climate change goes. And, sustainability, I mean it’s everything. It’s everything.”

St. Pierre says the theme is broad in scope and serves as a reminder that we have “finite” resources that can’t support the world’s many unstable practices and systems.

In support of the theme, there will be a number of vendors featuring share-riding, public transportation, and a display of hybrid vehicles. Also, there will be information on wind and solar energy, as well as gardening, plant and water education. There will be a designated kids activity area, food, music, dancing and yoga.

New for this year, Earth Day Pensacola is sponsoring a local charity, with funds raised at Saturday’s event to go to the environmental group 350 Pensacola.

Also new for this year is their partnership with the March for Science. St. Pierre called the move a “no brainer.”

“Climate change has become politicized,” he said. “We have representatives who have no scientific background making legislation based on the fear of ‘what’s good for the environment’ by default is bad for the economy. So, to take it away from the political climate, no pun intended, we wanted to involve them and really get that message out.”

In Pensacola, the March for Science will begin at 9:00 Saturday morning and will on location at Bayview Park as a prelude to the Earth Day Festival.

One of the leaders of the march will be Karen Atkinson Sanchez, a local science educator for almost two decades.

“Growing up, my dad was an engineer,” Sanchez said. “You know, science, technology, math, you know those things were always really big at home. I was the kid winning science fair projects for my school and my district, not just random, different science topics, but they were always earth and environment related.”

One of those projects focused on the Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill and another on the effect of CFC’s depleting the ozone layer.  

While this global March for Science is in response to political policies, Sanchez says ‘first and foremost’ it’s a non-partisan celebration of fact-based science.

“This is for everyone who can recognize, appreciate, and respect the role that science and technology plays in their everyday lives,” said Sanchez. “This is not blue or red. This is not partisan; this is for everyone who wants to come out and be a part of that.

According to the March for Science website, there will be 517 satellite marches worldwide. Twenty-one of them will be in Florida, including Pensacola, Panama City, and Fort Walton Beach.

In Fort Walton, the march will be held from 9 a.m. – noon, beginning and ending at the Emerald Coast Science Center.

Staying in Okaloosa County, residents can also participate in the annual Earth Day Beach Cleanup from 8:00-10:00 a.m. at three locations including Okaloosa Island at Beasley Park, at the Seashore Beachwalk on Okaloosa Island, and Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.

“Volunteers of all ages are welcome and they’ll be receiving event t-shirts, litter bags, recyclable gloves, bottled water and we hope lots of fun in the sun,” said Nancy Hussong with the Okaloosa Tourist Development Council, which has been organizing the beach cleanup for the past several years.

Hussong says it’s a good fit, since the county’s number one asset for tourism is its pristine coastline.  

For good reason, she says, their main focus will be on picking up all forms of plastic, including the #1 litter item cigarette butts.

“Plastic never disappears from the environment once it’s there,” Hussong said. “It degrades into smaller pieces that they call micro-plastics. Not only do we find those in our oceans now, but also in our drinking water, in our lakes and in our aquifers.”

And, while Okaloosa is focusing on local beaches, Santa Rosa County will be conducting an Earth Day edition of the annual Keep America Beautiful “Great American Cleanup.”

Kevin Smith, executive director of the Santa Rosa Clean Community System, says for this every area of the county is fair game.

We do have someone in Navarre that’s participatin, but we’re also up to Munson and Jay” said Smith. “We’re doing the whole county, not just waterways. And, we also have the Blackwater Pyrates that’s participating in the Great American Cleanup and they’re actually going to be on the Blackwater River cleaning up.”

For the cleanup in Santa Rosa, Waste Pro is donating four large dumpsters that will be placed in various locations across the county, including Milton, Bagdad, Munson and Floridale.