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Did I Mention Happy Earth Day?

April 30, 2013

Happy Earth Day. I know — Earth Day was on Monday. But we’re talking about a whole planet, can I have the week to think about it before I post?

You’ve heard of the slow food movement, I hope. I like to think of myself as a slow blogger.

Hazel’s half birthday falls on Earth Day. She reminds us each year and we mark her height on the wall with sharpie. These past six months, she grew 1 cm. I would have guessed more. I suppose the real growth spurts tend to get rolling right about now, though, don’t they? The kids are eating like gorillas.

April 22nd is not a date Edmontonians would choose to celebrate Earth Day, is it?

I get why other Earthlings have it scheduled for Spring — Spring is green grass and sunshine and hope. Except in Edmonton. In Edmonton late April is snow banks receeding away from sodden muck. It’s snow mold on wet ground and swathes of road crush left behind on dusty roads and boulevards. It is months of litter hidden in the anonymity of snow suddenly revealed. It is occasional flurries. It can be hard to keep your chin up in Edmonton, late April. Nevermind getting all rah rah about Earth. I snapped this yesterday on my way from the mothership to the grocery store:


Not even instagram can make that look good.

Edmonton hasn’t been celebrating Earth Day in any official way these past few years. I don’t know why. This year Edmonton’s unofficial Earth Day event was in the asphalt parking lot of a store off a busy street. I’m not criticizing the people who organized it in any way, but, well, sigh.

The real Earth Day news, according to the Flurfels, was Putrella blooming at the Muttart Conservatory. That was nice. Putrella is a Corpse Flower. Aptly named because the meter wide and meter tall blossom smells like rotten flesh. Think dumpster full of fish guts near a boat launch in July:


What a beaut. Very exciting. And not just to us nature-nerds — there were people lined up for hours outside the conservatory to catch a whiff of Putrella who only reeks for a couple days. Thousands of people. Lined up to smell a flower. There was even a fiddler.

It made me happy to see so many people excited about a putrid blossom.

The week before we were at the WEM aquarium and an interpreter was telling us about sharks. When she got to the part about how sharks, a 400 million year-old species that survived every mass extinction to date, are now endangered due to human causes — finning, pollution and habitat loss — my Hazel shed a few real tears. Why does my kid care so earnestly?


Because she is a sensitive person who understands biology at a level of depth that often surprises me. She loves animals and she simply has not built up a thick layer of environmental fatigue like the rest of us have.  She is utterly convinced that the Earth is a precious and beautiful place that should be protected and cherised. She does not understand why she has inherited a legacy of environmental destruction and why the people she’s inherited it from don’t observe some basic rules such as “don’t shit where you eat” and “don’t poison and then eat the hand that feeds you.”

And it’s not just her, it’s the boy too. I took him to see this at the Imax:


Oh, dear. He softly wept during the opening footage of glaciers crumbling into the ocean, just as soon as Morgan Freeman narrated that the Earth’s beautiful crown of ice is melting away to nothing. By the time we reached the part where a baby polar bear dies of starvation because the polar ice has shrunk too far away from the seals for him to be able to swim for his supper, Oliver let out the most sorrowful wails.

Is this simply terrible parenting on my part? Am I a jerk who shouldn’t be exposing my kids to such depressing information about the world because it’s simply not age appropriate? Is this because I breastfed them too long and have an unhealthy infatuation with growing organic vegetables?

To my credit I did ask at the front desk before buying our Imax tickets if the film was suitable for 4-year olds. I was assured that it was. It’s just nature footage, I was told.

Even if I refused to read all the non-fiction books about sharks and such that Hazel brings home from her school library, and prohibited the watching of their favourite PBS show in our home, and burned The Lorax and stopped growing kale in the community garden and serving it for supper, and even if I showed a general disdain for nature and yelled at them not to get dirt on their clothes and didn’t swoon with rapture when we went on hikes and saw things like baby foxes, and even if we traded in our canoe for a case of beer and some fireworks and yabbered on about how the economy is something that people need to nurture and obey instead of vice versa and even if I was utterly convinced that the way a policy affects the next revenue quarter is more important than how it affects the next generation, even then I think my children would notice that a bum deal is going down.

What can we tell them? Can we buy them off with a stuffie of a panda bear and a “real fruit snack”?

What’s the solution? I know it’s not putting our faith in this guy:


He is NOT on it, people.

The solution definately isn’t to get rid of scientists so they stop uncovering such depressing information.

Nor is the solution to just seperate ourselves mentally, emotionally and physically from nature and hope that works. Even if that was possible, it’s not desirable.

Playing outside is healthy. I think we can all agree on that. So why do the parks always seem so hauntingly empty? Have you noticed this too? Does it bug you?


In this case, the playground is being ignored because the puddle is way more interesting. Or, as Oliver kept shouting gleefully, “EPIC PUDDLE! E-PIC!”

Solutions necessarily have more to do with hope than despair.

I think the solution, if there is one, has something to do with letting kids muck about. I think it has to do with knowledge and ingenuity. Keeping chins up. Despair isn’t useful even if the hurt is real. Beyond that? It’s murky as an Alberta lake in August.

I would like ask Stephen Harper how he would explain the crumbling of polar ice caps and drowning baby polar bears to a 4-year old? I would like to hear his tips on convincing a 7-year old, ahem, 7 and a half year old, that her concerns about animal habitat are unneccessary.

Cause I could use a little help. I can assure you, I do not have it all figured out over here.

Puddles and hugs, Earthling. That’s really all I got.

Did I mention Happy Earth Day?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 1:12 pm

    beautiful post. The Harper government is truly failing current and future canadians on the most important front: our shared home.
    Mucking about in puddles,enjoying and appreciating the earth is critical.

  2. April 30, 2013 2:20 pm

    Litter hidden in snow is sad. It’s nice that you get moments when you can see the world through the eyes of Hazel. That one’s an Ecologist in the making.

  3. Martha permalink
    April 30, 2013 2:27 pm

    Epic Puddle. That is so cute. He is so smart.
    And you right so well

    • Martha permalink
      April 30, 2013 4:39 pm

      I meant to say she. And you write so well. I can picture everything you say. ox

  4. Agnes Wurfel permalink
    May 2, 2013 2:21 pm

    Well said Marlene. A lot of people are changing their tunes a little bit but a surprising number of people still say that it’s just a natural phase in the world’s history and humans have had nothing to do with it. It is sad!!

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