On Friday, May 3rd, I took part in an uplifting day with elementary and secondary school kids from twenty-three schools in Mississauga. We were participating in an Eco-Fest, organized by Vice Principal Joe Zammit of Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School, with help from his students and key school teachers (who accompanied their eco teams) and administrators from the 23 schools, including John Dmytrasz, Principal of St. Sofia Catholic School. Other schools that participated included John Cabot Catholic Secondary School, St. Timothy’s, Corpus Christi, Garnier to name a few.
The Eco Fest first took us to AE Crookes Park where we partook in two major activities: 1) collecting litter in the park; and 2) planting 100 trees with guidance from Catherine and her aids in the #1MillionTrees Program with Mississauga Parks & Forestry. Mr. Zammit began the fest with a prayer for the Earth (see below), then students formed groups for the two activities.
Everyone donned gloves and set out in small groups. Over a dozen full bags of litter were collected throughout the park in less than an hour.
Most of the litter consisted of fast-food packages and disposable containers, aluminum pop cans, Styrofoam containers, straws, single-use plastic bottles and cold beverage containers, disposable hot beverage cups (mostly Tim Horton’s cups), and copious cigarette butts—the most common litter in the city.
Cigarette butts are also very persistent (last up to two years on the ground) and highly toxic (containing thousands of toxins in the plastic filters).
Students were given excellent instruction on how to plant a tree or shrub by Catherine and her team at #1MillionTrees. This included practical advice on digging the hole; on removing the root plug from the pot and “tickling” the root ball; and ensuring the right elevation of the hole and judicious placement of wood chips in a “donut” around the young tree or shrub.
The #1Million Trees crew also instructed on the safe use of the shovel and how to dig efficiently. Students were then grouped into working pairs. They were enthusiastic and hard-working.
Most planted at least two trees!
Native tree and shrub species were planted. These included highbush cranberry, willow, hemlock, sycamore, and red osier dogwood.
We then journeyed to Queen of Heaven Elementary School, where ravenous students devoured pizza and I gave a talk on water.
Bellies full of pepperoni pizza, students listened and interacted with me during my presentation on water. We discussed water’s anomalous properties, particularly those associated with giving life. For more on water’s weird properties see these previous articles of mine. I mentioned how the same water that existed during the dinosaurs still exists today. After making the connection that we—like the planet—are over 70% water and that we breathe and drink water, I suggested that not only are we water; we are the water of the largest closest water body to us: we are Lake Ontario. We talked about being good stewards of our water—taking care of water is taking care of us.
I then introduced them to the curious water bear (moss piglet), also called a tardigrade: a tiny invertebrate that lives everywhere on the planet where there is sufficient moisture, and able to thrive in change—interesting when we consider our changing climate and changing planet.
These students were highly committed to helping this planet and their community. They were connected, cheerful, hard-working, curious and worked well in teams.
My heart swelled with optimism. They are the future, after all.
Prayer for the Earth
Most gracious God, we come before you to pray for the wellbeing of the planet. You alone know the full extent of the destruction we have wrought to your beautiful handiwork, and what needs to be done to remedy it. We pray for the people around the globe who suffer because of environmental damage. We pray for the defenseless creatures harmed or made extinct by our selfishness and ignorance. We pray for the oceans, air, mountains, plants, and soil, that life and health may again pulse in them. We pray that we humans have a change of heart and stop harming the planet. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us that we may have the passion and wisdom to work effectively to restore your creation. Guide us in our personal, church and community efforts. Give us strength to continue with this work when it is difficult and requires sacrifice. Bless the Earth and all its life in every way. We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord.
Thanks, Joe, for letting me participate in this wonderful and inspiring day.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books. Nina’s recent book is the bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” (Mincione Edizioni, Rome). Her latest “Water Is…” is currently an Amazon Bestseller and NY Times ‘year in reading’ choice of Margaret Atwood.