Peregrine falcon

Celebrating Earth Day connects the community to conservation successes and ways to help the environment.

As a ten-year-old girl, growing up in Riverside in the early 80s, I dreamed of one day seeing a peregrine falcon in the wild. I leafed through my National Audubon Society Field Guide often and it was the peregrine that captured my imagination. I thought the dark-eyed and slender-winged bird with fierce beak and talons was the embodiment of what was most wild in the sky. Yet, I had small hope of ever seeing one. Their population had dwindled with the effects of the insecticide DDT and they were a rare sight.

When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, she imagined the silence of a world without birds and explored humanity’s role in their disappearance. Very few environmental protection laws and regulations were in place at the time. Carson used real-world examples of the effects of DDT to craft a story imagining a world where the damage it was causing was left unchecked. The book was an instant best-seller and inspired the modern environmental movement, including the celebration of Earth Day beginning in 1970.

Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency followed by the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and many others since. In 1972, DDT was banned in the United States and eventually in most other countries as well. Peregrine falcons, bald eagles and other species harmed by the insecticide had one less challenge to surmount.

Carson may have sparked the movement, but it was the work of concerned citizens coming together that propelled the legislation and the mindset of caring for the planet. It is this desire to never experience a “silent spring” that 33 years ago, inspired community members to found Rivers & Lands Conservancy.

Jane Block, one of the founders of the organization is now 93 years old and has watched the environmental movement grow and said there is still much to be done.

“If there is one important thing that I can give to my grandchildren, it’s a public open space preserved in its natural beautify,” Block said. “We must continue to preserve spaces that are special and unique and continue to take careful care of them.”

There are many ways the public can learn more and pitch in the help care for the Earth, including events throughout the Inland Empire celebrating Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Riverside Insect Fair is taking place from 10AM to 4PM at the Riverside Main Library. The event is free to the public and family-friendly. Founded by the UCR Entomology Graduate Student Association and the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, the event goals introduces the current research being done in the UC Riverside Entomology department. Attendees can explore a Day with in My Live with an entomologist, learn how to create your own bug collection and visit with organizations like Rivers & Lands Conservancy and local businesses.

The City of Redlands will be celebrating A Day of Climate Action in Redlands offering volunteers opportunities for hands-on experiences in the community to help the alleviate climate impacts and reduce carbon emissions. Those who are interested can sign up to participate on the Redlands Earth Day website. Projects such as composting, planting trees and working with native plants will be occur in the morning and be completed by noon. The event will conclude with free lunch for participants at Smiley Park beginning at 12:30 PM along with activities for children and information tables.

Many cities throughout the region offer smaller events and residents should check for events near them. The City of Calimesa will be holding an Earth Day celebration at Mesa View Middle School from 8AM to 12PM with educational booths and activities. There will also be bulky item and e-waste drop off and free compost for residents.

No matter how you celebrate Earth Day, whether you take your family to an event or plant a tree in your yard, it all has an positive impact on the future. It might not seem like your participation matters, but the small acts add up to big successes. Just ask the peregrine falcon.

In 1999, the peregrine falcon was removed from the federal endangered species list following a spectacular comeback. In fact, a few years ago, I saw a pair of peregrines that were nesting in downtown Riverside on the sheriff’s office. It turns out that thanks to Earth Day, one of my dreams actually came true.

Rebecca K. O’Connor is the Co-Executive Director of Rivers & Lands Conservancy, has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from UC Riverside and is the author of several books on the natural world.


Rivers & Lands Conservancy connects our community to natural, wild, and open spaces of Southern California through land conservation, stewardship, and education.