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Earth Day events in Lincoln Park aim to educate

  • Joe Reilly gives "Children of the Earth" Earth Day concert at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Saturday, April 23, 2011.
Joe Reilly gives "Children of the Earth" Earth Day concert at… (Tribune File photo )
April 19, 2012|By Shaymus McLaughlin, for RedEye

With the looming glass skyscrapers, metallic office buildings and tightly-packed brick houses, Chicago doesn't look like a city that would easily embrace Earth Day--a holiday designed to promote environmental awareness, nature and sustainability.

But Lincoln Park is one step ahead, finding ways to put a city-life twist on this year's celebration.


Environmental discussion at DePaul
6:30 p.m. April 19
Room 154 of Schmitt Academic Center
2320 N. Kenmore Ave.

DePaul University is attempting to involve its neighbors with some of its Earth Day celebrations. While there are film screenings, student projects and volunteer opportunities, the university' week-long celebration is highlighted by a discussion with Richard Louv. Louv is a journalist and environmental author. The discussion takes place at 6:30 p.m. April 19. It is free and is open to the public.

"He's a perfect kind of guest for us at Earth Week, because it brings together academic interests, interests of the students and then it's free event, it's open to the public" said Liam Heneghan, professor of Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul.

Heneghan, who is also co-director of the university's Institute for Nature and Culture, said that Louv's work looks at the ways people can connect with nature despite full and busy lives--a natural fit for city-dwellers. And that focus is also reflecting a shift in ecological studies, which has traditionally viewed cities as the antithesis of nature.

Singer Joe Reilly will present a song/dance event
11 a.m., April 21
Peggy Notebart Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive

 "We use the celebration this month as sort of a way to remind people and stimulate people to get involved and think about these things," explained Steve Sullivan, curator of urban ecology at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum.

Since the mid-19th century, the museum has played host to a range of collections highlighting the city's natural history. And the modern-era Earth Day is no different.

Environmental singer songwriter Joe Reilly will be featured at the museum's Earth Day event. He'll be putting on a family-friendly, interactive song and dance presentation geared towards being green. And while the event "is just fun, and that's great," Sullivan said, it's also about making a lasting impact.

"By involving the community in these types of things, and setting an example of how we can interact with our world in a more sustainable way, it ultimately makes a huge difference," he said. "The biggest evidence for it is looking at how both governments and municipalities and corporations are dealing with environmental type issues...they're discovering that being good environmental stewards can be a bottom line thing. Increasingly, consumers are expecting good environmental stewardship from everybody they interact with."


Neighborhood clean-ups
Various locations, times, dates

Ald. Scott Waguespack of the 32nd ward partners monthly with a local volunteer group for a meet and clean.

"Basically the 32nd ward alderman's office has a group of neighbors that span the entire ward, all the neighborhoods," explained Steve Jensen, the volunteer community organizer that plans the events. "And we're concerned over the aesthetic of the city, from graffiti to overflowing dumpsters in the alley, rats...so we created a program called the Clean-Up, Meet-Up."

Each month, Jensen and his wife find "an area that needs some love," he said, and coordinates 20-30 volunteers. The pickup includes anything from weed picking to cleaning graffiti to painting. Then, the group heads out together for a social event. The ward office supplies brooms, rakes, trash bags and other supplies, Jensen said.

For Earth Day, due to the size of the ward, the 32nd ward volunteers cannot be in every park or at every alley, he said. Jensen and the alderman's office took a step back, and asked smaller neighborhood groups--such as Sheffield, Wrightwood, and Roscoe Village Neighbors--to organize their own Clean and Green crews, as part of the city's effort to involve citizens on Earth Day. Those looking to get involved should reach out to their neighborhood groups to find out when/where the next clean-up is.

Part of Earth Day's power, Heneghan said, is its positive nature, which stands in stark contrast to traditional green campaigning.

"One thing I'm kind of concerned about is old-fashioned green messaging that made people feel strategically bad about what they were doing," he said. "I think what's going on is that Earth Day is still about celebration, where as a lot of our other messaging is more old-fashioned finger-wagging. So I think people still use the day to celebrate rather than feel miserable about things."

And he hopes Louv's message gets through to people like Sullivan at the Notebart Nature Museum, and Jensen and his volunteers.

"We're often told we're doing the wrong thing," Heneghan said. "The Lincoln Park community takes pride in its gardens and its green space. Having Richard invite the public in, to listen to them, it kind of reminds folks that they are already kind of on the right path for environmental things."

Shaymus McLaughlin is a RedEye special contributor

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