By Mary Forgione
Design and illustrations by Micah Fluellen
On Earth Day, which falls on April 22, Southern California will break ground on a landmark project that could keep mountain lions from going extinct. The $87 million, 10-lane corridor over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills will provide a vital link for wildlife to safely roam the Santa Monica Mountains and avoid isolated gene pools that could spell doom for species. It’s a victory for the cougars — and the activists who pushed on their behalf.
Want to find your own way to help the planet? First, learn about the history of Earth Day and the most pressing climate issues on the L.A. Times podcast “Earth Day: Binge or cringe?” Then get involved with these 22 Earth Day events and activities, including learning how to live sustainably, filling your garden with drought-tolerant cactuses and viewing oceans in a fresh way aboard a tall ship.
Another way to celebrate the planet in April: National parks that typically charge fees will be free on Saturday, April 16, in honor of National Park Week, which runs through April 24. Parks across the country will host programs tied to daily themes.
1. Meet celebrated oceanographer, marine biologist and author Sylvia Earle. By any standard, Earle is a superstar scientist. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s former chief scientist (and the first woman to fill the role) was vital in developing submersible technologies to better understand the 99% of the Earth covered by oceans. Picked by Time magazine as its first Hero for the Planet, Earle, 86, will speak with actress Laura Dern about what she’s learned during a lifetime of ocean discoveries and why we should all become passionate ocean advocates. 7:30 p.m. April 21 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Free, advance registration required.
2. Cruise aboard L.A.’s official Tall Ships. Bet you didn’t know that two 110-foot wooden brigantine-style vessels serve as maritime ambassadors for the city of L.A. The Los Angeles Maritime Institute ships — the Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson — docked in San Pedro are named for the remarkable sailing couple who saw the character-building value of training young people to sail. Since 2002, the vessels have become a place where youth learn the ropes and then head out to sea to practice what they’ve learned. Sunset sailings from 5:30 to 8 p.m. April 23 cost $30 to $60 per person. Advance tickets required.
3. Spend time removing trash at local beaches. No experience is needed to attend beach cleanups — and you can bring the whole family. Take an active role in making Southern California’s popular coastal spots a little more inviting. Cleanups are planned in Long Beach at Belmont Pier from 4 to 6:30 p.m. April 23, Hermosa Beach at the pier from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 22 and at Venice Beach (gather at the Lifeguard Operations Center) from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. April 22. Dozens more cleanups are planned around SoCal; search online for events in your community.
4. Hear what poets have to say about Mother Earth on her special day. Seven Ventura County poets will gather to “read original poetry that celebrates nature and humanity’s connection to the environment,” according to a news release. Poets include Friday Gretchen; Ann Buxie, poet laureate, Malibu; novelist Jennifer Kelley; Anita McLaughlin; Enid Osborn; Peg Quinn; and Chris Spangenberg. “Echoes of the Earth: Poetry in Honor of Earth Day” will feature performances from 3 to 4:30 p.m. April 24 at the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks. It’s free, with advance registration. The event is paired with the museum’s show “Landscape Through the Eyes of Abstraction,” which examines our connection with the Earth through abstract landscapes.
5. Take your pick from among thousands of cactuses and succulents at this South Bay plant sale. You’ve made the decision to plant a drought-tolerant garden — now what? Talk to pros and peruse an array of plants at the South Coast Cactus & Succulent Society’s show and sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 23 and 24. Check out displays by growers and learn pro tips on how to get started or how to better care for plants you already have. The society, now in its 50th year, hosts the two-day sale at the Palos Verdes Art Center in Rancho Palos Verdes.
6. Explore L.A.’s largest remaining natural area in the northwestern San Fernando Valley. The Chatsworth Nature Preserve is a remarkable site with seasonal wetlands and vernal pools, grasslands, oak woodlands and savanna, and riparian areas. It’s a bird-watcher’s paradise too, with roughly 200 species on site or passing through. The open house, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 23, begins with a Native American blessing and continues with guided hikes and live animal demonstrations.
7. Visit Santa Barbara museums and gardens that have teamed up for Earth Day programs. There’s easily enough to fill a weekend (or longer) in Santa Barbara over Earth Day weekend. More than a dozen sites known as the Environmental Alliance of Santa Barbara County Museums will feature exhibitions on climate change, where to go hiking, where to see native plants, where to find culturally sensitive artworks and more. A few examples: “SuperArtificial” at the MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, features a garden with flowers and animals made of plastic waste; and “Take a Hike, Save the World,” which highlights local trails and public lands at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. Also, a daylong free Earth Day Celebration will host action-oriented speakers and events, such as a recycled fashion show, at the Arlington Theatre from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23.
8. Ever see an edible garden up close? Take an L.A. Green Grounds tour to see how it’s done. L.A. Green Grounds is dedicated to helping people in South L.A. create their own edible gardens. The nonprofit organization invites the public to experience its teaching garden with free tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 23. You can also learn about volunteer opportunities with Green Grounds.
9. Take your dog on a guided hike in Griffith Park. Here’s a chance to take a group hike with your dog in L.A.’s biggest park. Natural pet store Healthy Spot is sponsoring an hourlong Hike & Hounds event that’s good for all activity levels from 9 to 10 a.m. April 23 in Griffith Park. Cost is $10 (plus $1.53 online fee); proceeds benefit the nonprofit Delaney’s Dog Rescue.
10. Get swept away by California’s natural splendor at the L.A. Times Festival of Books author panel. California possesses an embarrassment of riches when it comes to culture and exquisite landscapes and natural spaces. That’s why we love it, right? “California: You’re Beautiful No Matter What They Say” at the Festival of Books, from 2 to 3 p.m. April 23, feature a panel of naturalists and writers who reflect on what’s right and what’s wrong with the Golden State. Obi Kaufmann, naturalist and author-illustrator, who will debut his new book, “The Coasts of California”; naturalist and nature-obsessed Charles Hood (“A Salad Only the Devil Would Eat: The Joys of Ugly Nature”); author Victoria Kastner (“Julia Morgan: An Intimate Biography of the Trailblazing Architect”) and author David Kipen (“Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018″) will be on hand for the panel moderated by L.A. Times Column One editor Steve Padilla.
11. Learn about coastal wetlands at the Earth Day at the Bay celebration in Newport Beach. The Newport Bay Conservancy will host an Earth Day event at Upper Newport Bay, one of the largest remaining wetlands along Southern California’s coast. Take a walk at the estuary, where saltwater and fresh water meet, and then check out arts and crafts booths, educational sessions and live music from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 23 at the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve.
12. Give trails some love during Santa Monica Mountains Trail Days. Here’s a chance to get your hands dirty — and help maintain trails in Point Mugu State Park in Newbury Park. There’s no experience needed to volunteer for a day or to camp overnight and work two days at the 39th annual Trail Days. Check out the training video and then reserve a spot by April 22 to join the work party April 22-24. (There are other trail-work dates in case you can’t make the Earth Day event.)
13. Dive into the world of bees and white sage with these environmental films. Burning white sage bundles as a purifying ritual has become trendy — and harmful to the plant that grows only in Southern California and northern Baja, Mexico. “Saging the World” explains how poachers steal these plants in the wild and sell them on the global market. Tickets cost $15; the film screens at 7 p.m. April 22. “My Garden of a Thousand Bees” is the work of a wildlife filmmaker who documented the remarkable life of the insects buzzing around his small urban garden. Tickets cost $15 in advance or $20 at the door; the film screens at 4 p.m. April 24. Both films will be shown at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.
14. Plant ferns at one of L.A.’s coolest and greenest gardens. Ferns planted more than a century ago in what’s known as the Fern Dell “living museum” in Griffith Park form a lush respite from the city. Native and exotic species coexist on this small spot behind the bear statue near the intersection of Los Feliz Boulevard and Western Avenue. Join the Friends of Griffith Park to help plant ferns along the Fern Dell streambed and work on a nearby garden from 8:30 to 11 a.m. April 23. RSVP in advance.
15. Dress up as your favorite endangered species for the Earth Day Parade. Kids, here’s your chance to craft a creative environmental costume and message for the annual parade in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Groups must have at least three participants and register in advance online. The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. April 24. It’s part of EarthFair 2022, a free daylong event with more than 200 exhibitor booths, children’s play area, live music and other activities.
16. Listen to U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Pramila Jayapal discuss the planet’s problems. What should we do to fight climate change? Schiff and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt discuss climate solutions at the Earth Day 2022 Virtual Stage, hosted by the Earth Day Initiative. Tune in to other conversations, including Jayapal talking about social justice and climate change, and 350.org founder Bill McKibben discussing how to lighten your environmental footprint. Sign in to hear conversations that will stream from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 21.
17. Learn how to lead a more sustainable life at the Manhattan Beach aquarium. The Roundhouse Aquarium Teaching Center at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier is home to sharks, octopuses, moray eels and sheepshead fish. For Earth Day, the aquarium will host “Keep It Clean, Keep It Green” activities for children that include seed plantings and craft activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 23. $10 in advance or $15 at the door for children; adults attend for free.
18. Hear reggae singer Ziggy Marley read his latest children’s book at the L.A. Zoo. The zoo has scheduled a month of weekend programs dedicated to Earth Day. Marley and his wife will appear at the zoo 11 a.m. May 1 to read “Little John Crow,” a story about a Jamaican vulture on a voyage of self-discovery, followed by an expert who will talk about the large raptors. Other events include honey tastings, animal feedings and a program about the comeback of the California condor. Most events are free with zoo admission ($22 for adults; $17 for children 2 to 12 years old).
19. Take delivery of a free shade tree to plant in your yard or in your neighborhood. Trees clean the air by stripping carbon dioxide and bring much-needed shade to naturally cool homes and neighborhoods. That’s why City Plants has been giving out free trees to L.A. residents and delivering them to their doorstep. You have 30 species to choose from to put in your yard or on your street; trees come in 5-gallon containers and should go into the ground as soon as you get them. There’s a limit of seven per household. Contact City Plants to get started.
20. Add your ocean animals and underwater scenes to a mural at Aquarium of the Pacific. The Long Beach aquarium is calling on creatives to help with the ocean-themed Art Miles Mural, a symbol of hope, love and healing to children around the world. Five thousand murals painted by more than half a million people from 100 countries have been created by project participants, according to the organization’s website. It’s part of the aquarium’s two-day Earth Day celebration from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23 and 24. Other events include presentations by Earth Day art and poetry contest winners. Most events are free with aquarium admission: $36.95 for adults, $26.95 for children 3 to 11.
21. Go to the Lummis Days/Earth Day Festival in northeast L.A., where art and culture meet nature. For more than a decade, Lummis Day (named for early L.A. Times editor and writer-photographer Charles Lummis) has highlighted the arts, history and ethnic diversity of certain L.A. neighborhoods. Now it will be paired with Earth Day, starting with a “Butterflies and Bees” puppet parade by members of the Arroyo Arts Collective at Sycamore Grove Park (4702 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles). Performers and dancers will appear on stages at the park during the festival. It runs from noon to 7 p.m. April 24.
22. Shop at an art show for paintings by local artists dedicated to the Santa Monica Mountains. More than 20 years ago, the Allied Artists of the Santa Monica Mountains was founded by artists who wanted to capture the singular beauty of the coastal chain. The ninth annual show will feature 100 landscapes and seascapes by 15 artists from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 24 at the King Gillette Ranch Visitor Center at 26876 Mulholland Highway in Calabasas. Art prices range from $40 to $1,000. A portion of the money raised will fund art and cultural programs at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
The red flag
Think more than twice before you buy a bundle of dried sage to light and “smudge away negative energy or evil spirits, or just purify the air,” says an L.A. Times story. The trendy fad fueled by social media imperils wild white sage that grows only in Southern California and northern Baja, Mexico. Poachers are cashing in while oblivious buyers think they are performing a moving (and inadvertently destructive) purification ritual. Yes, Indigenous people used white sage for many purposes, including ceremonial events, but not to the extent of what has become global demand. How can you help? Learn where your sage comes from before you buy it; make sure it’s grown for sale, not extracted from the wild. Learn more in the film “Saging the World,” a California Native Plant Society documentary that debuts 7 p.m. April 22 at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. Tickets cost $15.
Who doesn’t love a soap opera about love and loss — starring birds? Two peregrine falcons, nicknamed Annie and Grinnell, love and lay eggs at a nest atop Sather Tower on UC Berkeley’s campus. Scientists watching webcams pointed at the nest on the 307-foot-tall tower recently broke the bad news: Annie, the mother of 13 chicks in five broods, was gone. But then she reappeared. “We’ve never, in our years of monitoring Peregrine nests had a female disappear during the peak of breeding season and reappear a week later like nothing had changed,” the scientists wrote on Twitter. “She still may face competition from the new birds in the area, but Queen Annie appears to be back.” Read the full saga of Annie and Grinnell.
Bicyclists and walkers, take note: There’s a new $27.2-million bridge over the Los Angeles River that connects Cypress Park with the Elysian Valley, also called Frogtown. The Taylor Yard Bridge is big and bright orange. What can you see? “While the view from the path, wedged between Interstate 5 and the river, isn’t always picturesque, it is quintessentially L.A.,” Melinda Fulmer wrote about her bridge ride. “Riotous bursts of fuchsia bougainvillea cascade next to razor-wire fences and colorful graffiti on one side of the path, while views of rushing water, rocks, sycamore trees and waving native grasses line the bottom of the paved riverbed on the other.”
Got plants? Spring is the time to reassess your garden and think about changes you want to make. Check out these 39 fantastic independent nurseries for SoCal plant lovers.
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Click to view the web version of this newsletter and share it with others, and sign up to have it sent weekly to your inbox. I’m Mary Forgione, and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.