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Earth Day – Naturally


By Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.
Every year since April 22, 1970 communities all across the nation have celebrated Earth Day with a variety of outdoor activities and educational opportunities. In collecting information for mid-south area Earth Day events this year, we found quite a number to choose from.

The headliner horse event is the 2013 Outdoor Expo Earth Day Celebration in Athens, Alabama at Big Spring Memorial Park, aka “the duck pond.” Natural Horseman Clinician Jim Swanner, host of All About Horses on WKAC 1080 AM radio and instructor at Athens State University’s Center for Life Long Learning, will be a main part of the Celebration. Jim will teach classes on “Understanding More About Horses” and “Building a Relationship with Your Horse.”

Jim’s approach to horsemanship is based on “what’s natural to the horse and understanding the horse,” he explained. “The horse is a prey animal and we need to learn how to think like a horse – very difficult for use as a ‘predator.’ So, I teach concepts, not methods or techniques.” He tries to help people understand the horse’s thinking and ways to do things that work for the horse. “You’ve got to allow the horse to understand that you’re not going to hurt him/her,” he emphasized.

Touch is one of the first things he teaches, for example, how much or how little pressure to use. “It’s how you communicate with the horse.” And “Timing is everything,” he said, when it comes to cues and communication with your horse. Safety is of utmost importance in his teaching and training, too.

The key question he helps people answer is “How do you get a good relationship with your horse?” First, “you’ve got to understand the nature of the horse. Then you’ve got to understand your own horse’s nature, his ‘horsenality,’” Jim said.
 “If people were more like horses, the world would be a better place,” Jim believes. This means honesty and responsibility. “A horse is not going to lie to you. You may not like what he says, but he’s not going to lie. They live in the moment, and you’ve got to be in the moment with them. They don’t harbor ‘baggage.’”

He is glad to be a part of the 2013 Outdoor Expo Earth Day Celebration. “I always jump at the opportunity to share,” he said. His philosophy of working with horse spills over into his environmental concern – especially taking responsibility for ourselves and the consequences of our actions. For example, “Don’t litter,” he admonishes. “We all live here! Recycling is an important part of taking care of the earth.” He works with two organizations in his area; the Athens/Limestone Tourism Association and Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful.

Read more about Jim at: You may be interested in his blog articles, particularly the January 22, 2013 post: “Our Relationships with Our Horses, You Think? He writes: “In a good relationship there is less stress; we understand one another; we can rely on one another; we have a good communication system; we understand the other’s nature; we want to be with one another; we are more confident; we are more relaxed; there aren’t any secrets; there is trust.”

Here’s what’s going on in the rest of the area:

In Memphis: April 20: Shelby Farms Down to Earth Festival, 10am-5pm.
In Nashville, TN: April 20: Centennial Park, 11am - 7 pm.
In Knoxville, TN: April 20: Knoxville's EarthFest, 10am -5pm at Pellissippi State Community College’s Hardin Valley campus
In Oak Ridge, TN: Earth Day Oak Ridge, April 26-28:
Earth Day in Kentucky: April 22: Louisville, KY,Capitol Education Center
Arkansas Earth Day Festival: April 20, Little Rock, Heifer International Grounds, 1 World Ave., 11 am-5 pm
Arkansas State Parks Earth Day:
Earth Day events at TN Natural Areas and State Parks:

Art and Photography sometimes enhance our understanding of things far better than the written word. Chris Jordon has created impressive visions of the impact that human activities have on the Earth. I first saw his work on display at the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus when I was a doctoral student. I was absolutely amazed at his ability to show so much in one photograph! You will be amazed, too! Check out his “Running the numbers: an American self-portrait.” Be sure to click each image for the zoom effect.

For examples: “Car Keys, 2011” depicts 260,000 car keys, equal to the number of gallons of gasoline burned in motor vehicles in the US every minute. “Plastic Bottles, 2007” depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes. “Plastic Bags, 2007”Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds. “Skull With Cigarette, 2007” depicts 200,000 packs of cigarettes, equal to the number of Americans who die from cigarette smoking every six months. Based on a painting by Van Gogh. “Paper Cups, 2008” depicts 410,000 paper cups, equal to the number of disposable hot-beverage paper cups used in the US every fifteen minutes. “Shipping Containers, 2007” depicts 38,000 shipping containers, the number of containers processed through American ports every twelve hours.

There are numerous e-publications and websites you can visit to glean more information about Earth Day and specific environmental issues. Here is a sampling:

Environment 360:
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication:
Andrew Revkin’s NY Times Dot Earth Blog:
Solutions Journal:
The Green Museum – Environmental Art:
Encyclopedia of Earth:
The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies:
The Climate Reality project
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
US Global Change Research Program
Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy:
Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere:
Outdoor Education at the CHANS site:
My motto: Every Day is Earth Day.

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