What a difference a decade makes

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By The Staff

When you are 20 years old, 10 years is half your lifetime, and time moves slowly. However, when you’re an older adult,

10 years fly by at a speed that is unsettling. How has Los Alamos’ view of the environment changed in the last 10 years?

The evolution of PEEC and Earth Day celebrations offers a frame of reference.

Ten years ago a group of community members founded an organization called “Friends of the Nature Center” that resulted in the founding of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC), now located on Orange Street. Our initial event was the first community celebration of Earth Day. Since then, as environmental consciousness has increased, this community event has grown into a major celebration, with many contributing organizations and businesses.

Also 10 years ago, the fire department and Interagency Wildfire Management Team organized an informational meeting to help the public understand the ecology of fire after the 1996 Dome Fire. The drought was deep; the landscape thirsty for rain and snow. Based on our research, we talked about the conditions of our forests and the potential for a catastrophic fire.

Unfortunately, several weeks later we found our community fighting a ferocious wildfire. It was a time of fear, sadness and uncertainty, but also a time of coming together to work together for the benefit of the environment and the community. Many volunteered to help those less fortunate than themselves and to help restore the landscape.

Ten years ago, the Volunteer Task Force, a community-based organization, came into being; it has involved hundreds of people, young and old, in environmental volunteerism since then.

Those same 10 years have seen many changes in the community and the surrounding environment. Nature began recovering from the scars of the fire immediately, sometimes imperceptibly, but always ceaselessly greening and changing. The recovery of the community was indeed slower. Some people stayed and some left. There was an intersection of thankfulness, grief, education and volunteerism that came together.

From the experiences of the last decade, we have come to realize the importance of understanding fire in the ecosystem to the sustainability of our forests and woodland ecosystem and health of our communities, especially in this urban/forest interface.

The ecology of the mountains, the recovery of the community and the importance of volunteerism converge as the theme for Earth Day 2010. PEEC is joining with organizations throughout the community for Earth Day. We will celebrate volunteerism in the community, educate ourselves about the ecology of our mountains as related to the fire and enjoy the entertainment of the vaudeville-style troupe, Clan Tynker.

 We will appreciate the role of education as we listen to students report their 10 years of data collection in a Kids’ Symposium sponsored by the Volunteer Task Force. We will view the landscape through the eyes of artists in a show at Mesa Public Library and understand the importance of volunteerism in the community with a wall of volunteers. Throughout the week we’ll have special speakers and activities such as hikes to help us understand our environment.

We will celebrate the first 10 years of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center and its contribution to the education of children and adults about the environment.

It is amazing to realize that we are in the second decade of this century. Our Earth Day activities will help us learn from the past decade and gain confidence for the next one as we come to understand our environment, our community and ourselves.

If you want to contribute as volunteers, artists, scientists or citizens, please contact Terry Foxx, chairperson of the Earth Day Committee at PEEC, 662-0460.