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WASHBURN – With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day happening Wednesday, April 22, Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center has offered suggestions about how to celebrate the event. 

The first Earth Day was celebrated April 22, 1970. The event was organized due to the world realizing how the planet was being affected by littering and pollution. 

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson brought national attention to the issue after witnessing an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He used inspiration from the Vietnam anti-war movement and fused it with the public consciousness of the growing pollution problem to create a movement involving approximately 20 million Americans. 

Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center in Washburn has a connection to the origins of local celebrations of Earth Day. Bill Nickle, the founder of Narrow Ridge, helped found the first Earth Day event in East Tennessee. The event was held in Knoxville shortly after the founding of Narrow Ridge in the 1970s. 

Nickle said he gathered with several local church leaders to found the event, which took place at Tyson Park. He said the group continued celebrating Earth Day at various locations and before he knew it, everyone was celebrating with an event. 

He said Narrow Ridge participated in early Earth Day celebrations by doing roadside pick-ups and beginning a recycling program in the county. Nickle said Earth Day has changed in the past 50 years. 

“When we first started, it was more of a new understanding of the human relationship to the planet, and if we didn’t start taking better care of it, eventually we were going to suffer,” he said. 

Narrow Ridge Director Mitzi Wood-Von Mizener offered ways to celebrate Earth Day during the pandemic. She said currently people were being encouraged to get outside and away from other people.

“I think it’s very interesting that, with these troubled times, we’re reminded of this great, beautiful world that’s outside our window we take for granted,” said Wood-Von Mizener. “Maybe this is a real time for us to be grateful, especially grateful, that we have access to the colors of spring and all that’s happening this time of year that reminds us that, with the troubles of life, the seasons that there’s renewal.”

Wood-Von Mizener said the community can celebrate by noticing the birds which are visiting for the spring. Street and creek clean-ups are another way community members can celebrate. Wood-Von Mizener said participants should remember to use gloves if doing a clean-up to ensure the prevention of infectious diseases. 

She suggested community members spend time under the stars. This does not have to be done during Earth Day. Wood-Von Mizener said to choose the clearest night of Earth Week to gaze at the stars. She also suggested sowing flower seed as a way to celebrate. Working in a garden or doing something kind for neighbors is another way to celebrate Earth Day, she said.

“I think Earth Day is a time to take care of the planet that takes care of us,” said Wood-Von Mizener. 

She said community members could take part in a Keep Tennessee Beautiful initiative, which helps prevent littering and encourages recycling, community greening and beautification. Wood-Von Mizener suggested the community consider how to stop littering permanently. 

She said with the decreased pollution in the air and water due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s a great time to celebrate the earth. She said there were stories from across the world where animals were coming out of hiding for the first time in decades or where the local greenery could be seen where it once could not. 

Wood-Von Mizener expressed her thanks to Grainger County. 

“Being in a beautiful place among beautiful folks has been something that’s made going through this pandemic much easier for us at Narrow Ridge.”

She said Narrow Ridge is always open to discuss how to partner with neighbors to continue helping the environment and how they can become better partners.

As of press time, Narrow Ridge had not yet decided what it was going to do to celebrate Earth Day 2020. The compound typically celebrates by having a potluck dinner and taking a night hike to view the stars.

Anyone who would like more information about Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center can visit www.narrowridge.org or call (865) 497-2753.