Volunteers fuel cleanup effort, tree-planting blitz

Saturday will see volunteers fan out across the township for the community cleanup day that is part of Healthy Communities Month in Woolwich.

They’ll be picking up after the thoughtless people who litter wantonly. This year, there’ll add some ice-storm damage to the mix, as there are still plenty of signs of last week’s weather event.

Downed branches aside, if past years are any indication, they’ll find all sorts of discarded items. More than just candy wrappers and pop cans – perhaps written off as childish negligence – the long list of junk found along roadways, in parks and other public places reveals deliberate intent. A stray coffee cup or scrap of paper may have been caught in the wind, an old tire (or, more likely, dozens of old tires) did not arrive on its own – somebody was bypassing the proper disposal process. That’s become an even bigger problem with the winding down and eventual shuttering of the Elmira transfer station.

Such garbage is not only unsightly, it is potentially hazardous: people should be able to use the parks and trails without worrying about what they may step on. Worse still, some people are not above dumping toxins such as used oil and household cleaners.

Later in the month, there’ll be opportunities for residents to plant trees, with Trees for Woolwich events scheduled for Apr. 23 and 30. The group’s goal is to plant 23,000 trees, one for each Woolwich resident. The Woolwich Clean Waterways Group will be out planting on Apr. 26 and 27.

The goal jibes well with this year’s Earth Day (Apr. 22) focus on planting trees.

Earth Day Canada is looking to plant 25,000 trees to mark the event’s 25th anniversary. Globally, Earth Day organizations are kicking off an ambitious campaign to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person on the planet, by 2020. Canada’s contribution to this worldwide goal is 35 million trees — one per person in Canada. Planting 25,000 trees for Earth Day and every day leads to 35 million trees by 2020, which is the target.

Decidedly low-tech in comparison to the technological fixes being used to combat climate change – think of alternatives to fossil fuels such as solar electric power – planting trees remains the most affordable and accessible way to deal with the problem, the group maintains. It also comes with a host of benefits, including the greening of our communities and the addition of wildlife habitat, not to mention the social aspects of bringing neighbours together to work on a common project.

As environmentalists continue to stress on the run up to Earth Day, the number-one issue remains climate change. Canada, of course, has a poor track record on this file, promising little and doing less, arguing any targets we set would be a drop in the bucket if the big players – the U.S., China, India and Russia – refuse to play ball.

Perhaps it’s time to move past the rhetoric and actually start doing something. Even climate change skeptics – those who argue the changes are naturally occurring, not manmade – can’t argue the fact we’re polluting the only home we have. Measures designed to improve the environment can only improve our own health and quality of life down the road.

That’s not likely to happen soon, if ever. In the meantime, volunteers will be making this part of the world a little cleaner and greener.

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