By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Area environmental enthusiasts began celebrating Earth Day early this year, as local organizations kicked off a weeklong calendar of events aimed at increasing awareness and appreciation of Mother Nature.
Chris Pistole, education director at the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, said today — Earth Day — is a time for the Joplin community to refocus on rebuilding the natural area that was devastated by the May 22, 2011, tornado.
“I think that we have to send out a strong message in the town for Earth Day,” Pistole said. “We want people to realize nature is resilient, and we can rebuild the natural parts around here with dedication. It will turn into a domino effect. You’ll see trees come back, then the birds, and then a positive environmental difference in the end.”
The center gave away more than 340 plants and 2,000 trees and shrubs Saturday as part of a naturescaping workshop that was open to the public.
“We want to use natural plants to enhance the landscape while rebuilding for the long term,” Pistole said. “A lot of people are now focusing on that locally after they realized the work that will go into bringing nature back. You can’t just rebuild a 100-year-old oak tree overnight, but you can plant it now and start encouraging that growth.”
The center also held a showing Sunday of the documentary “Green Fire,” which covers the work of influential environmentalist Aldo Leopold. A forum was held with Susan Flader, a University of Missouri-Columbia professor who has written several books on the career and philosophy of Leopold.
The nature center will be closed today as part of normal business hours, though the trails around the center will be open.
“I want people to be able to take the day to help reconnect with nature,” Pistole said. “We are glad that we can provide a venue where that is possible, and we encourage the public to take in the beautiful parts of our area that exist.”
• Art students at Missouri Southern State University will hold a Southern Clay Earth Day sale from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. today at Billingsly Student Center. Students are encouraging the public to turn out and take home an “earthen” vessel.
• Crowder College students and faculty members in Neosho will participate in the school’s third annual Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday.
The celebration will include campus beautification projects such as planting flowers and trees, mulching flower beds and cleaning up weeded areas.
More than 120 students participated in last year’s event. To join the college’s celebration, people may contact Mark Aubuchon at 417-455-5644.
• Empire District Electric Co. will give away trees to customers Friday on a first-come, first-served basis. The giveaway will begin after an 11 a.m. program at Parr Hill Park, with Joplin city officials and representatives of the Missouri Department of Conservation recognizing the benefit of trees in the community. The program also will cover proper tree planting.
The first Earth Day, observed on April 22, 1970, led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.