by Dr. Tamara Romanuk
Earth Day, the day the world (most of it anyway…192 countries to date) celebrates our home, the one and only Planet Earth, for its 44th year. Earth Day has grown from its grass-roots origins in New York City, to become a true global movement. Its goals? To demonstrate support for environmental protection, promote environmental awareness, and bring attention to how humans impact the environment.
While Earth Day is celebrated officially on April 22nd, the Homo sapiens that live in Bocas del Toro (yes, that’s us) celebrate Earth Day 365 days a year (and so do the plants and animals just in case you were wondering). Environmental protection is not just the bread and butter of tourist destinations, like our fair archipelago, it’s the health of the world we live in. And down here, what a world it is. It is hard to remember a week that hasn’t gone by without some feat of heroic environmental activism and awareness.
“Every Day is Earth Day”, literally, to so many of tireless residences in the Bocas community. These are the members of the community that lunge, not step, forward to give up their Thursdays to drive the recycling truck, head up dolphin and sea turtle projects, comb the beaches for garbage that’s detrimental to inhabitants of its nearby ocean, or protect the pygmy sloths of Escudo de Veraguas, the only island home for this endemic (ok, and adorable) species; they rescue mountain lion cubs, or organize and carry out volunteer spay and neuter clinics. These people remind us that caring about our world is not a choice one can make from day to day. We are all in it together, and it is a responsibility that transcends getting your favorite empanada for lunch. Caring for our planet is a commitment each and every day. Convenient or not.
In the Bocas del Toro archipelago there are few (if any) who would disagree. From working to clean up the trash and recycle, to educating tourist boat operators on how to show off our resident dolphins with dolphin safety being the priority, environmental awareness is like getting your electrolytes from pipa water straight from the coconut. Normale.
Worthy mentions for my very own “Earth Day is Every Day” award go to Marlon from the Bocas del Toro Station of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute for helping relocate a sloth from my deck last year back to a cushy mangrove swamp. Then there is the tireless energy of the turtle police squad (seriously, when do they sleep?). Perhaps during those few months of the year when we don’t have four species of turtles laying eggs on our beaches. There is also a need to mention Captain Marcell of Bocas Sailing for saving a castaway (featured in January’s issue), a couple of pirates who work with the local police to find and fine clueless idiots who try and drive ATV’s on the beach, the many artisans who create their remarkable pieces from recycled materials, and B.E.L.O and BESO for participating in beach clean-ups, basura banishing, and educational environmental initiatives for local schoolchildren.
Hold on, Gaia? Is that you? The coconut telegraph works in mysterious ways on our little rock. She just asked me to add a few more special mentions. Gaia (aka Mother Earth) would personally like to thank anyone who has ever picked up trash, saved a red frog from getting its picture taken, or chased an anteater while gently shouting “shoo shoo” and directing them towards a nice tasty ant hill.
Earth Day is Every Day in Bocas del Toro and well, the truth is, it should be every day everywhere. We have one planet. Come and celebrate with us!