Happy Earth Day! What better way to celebrate other than a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to check out the different ways you can help our environment? April 22nd also happens to be Animal Kingdom’s birthday, so today we had a Party for the Planet and lots of special activities taking place around the park.
Earth Day blossomed out of the seed of an idea, spurned on the activist movements of the 60’s. The founder, former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, was bothered by the environmental issues that were beginning to come to light in our world, and decided to try to inspire a change. On April 22nd, 1970 Nelson planned a nationwide grassroots demonstration, inviting everyone to participate. It was a huge success, with 20 million Americans demonstrating in 20 different cities!
As a result of the awareness Earth Day raised on that day in 1970, many environmental regulatory acts were passed, including the Endangered Species Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and amendments strengthening the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air and Water Acts–not to mention the many laws passed designed to protect natural resources and expand public lands. (For more information on the history of Earth Day… Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day)
Today, Earth Day has become a global celebration! At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we opened several extra stations to share how Guests could make small changes to help improve our world. There was a camping station and bird watching area set up outside Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where Guests could learn about how they could connect with nature and get outside! All too often, kids don’t have the opportunity today to feel the mud between their toes or experience a magical night under the stars. It’s really important that we try to make that relationship between our kids and the natural world. Our survival depends on the Earth, and how we care for it makes quite a difference.
Inside the Conservation Station, there are many activities to engage Guests. As a Presenter, I worked at a station that involved three different activities centered around the new DisneyNature movie, African Cats! For the past three years, DisneyNature has come out with a new movie on Earth Day. Earth came out in 2009, followed by Oceans in 2010, and now African Cats for 2011. This movie is absolutely amazing! It takes you on a journey through the lives of two different African cat families, namely that of a lioness and her cub, as well as a cheetah and her pups. It’s a gorgeous story that tugs at your heartstrings, giving viewers a glimpse into the lives of these vulnerable animals. For our activities, Guests could identify which animals live out on the savannah, analyze a map and identify the changes in lion and cheetah movements (as well as how they can help protect these animals), and watch a video to identify different lion and cheetah behaviors. At the end of the activities, we discussed what Guests could do to lend a hand to these African animals. For example, if you attend African Cats in the first week of its opening, part of the proceeds from your movie ticket are to donated to the African Wildlife Foundation, which is working to help protect the savannah! (In my opinion, everyone should make an effort to see this movie! Even the credits are amazing!… and keep your eyes peeled for Chimps, coming to theaters April 22nd, 2012!!!)
Another station allowed Guests to become researchers themselves, walking along a path in Africa, looking for different footprints to see which animals passed through the area. After they had identified which animals had been there, Guests were encouraged to explore their own backyards! Wildlife is everywhere, and who knows what you might find!
For those of you that celebrated Earth Day and pledged to make a change to improve the environment today, THANKS! For those of you who didn’t, it’s never too late! You don’t have to make a dramatic change either. Many times it’s the little things we do that can make all the difference. For example, for each aluminum can you recycle, you save enough energy to power a tv for 3 hours… how simple! Why not take reusable bags to the grocery store? By avoiding plastic bags, we can help keep them out of the ocean and save the 7 endangered species of sea turtles that are nearing extinction. (For more information on sea turtles, check out this link…. Sea Turtle Conservancy)
If you’d like to learn more or make a pledge, click the link below! How did you celebrate Earth Day? Feel free to share in the comments!