Elizabeth Gunto, staff writer
On April 19, Warren Wilson College will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in Canon Lounge with poetry readings, an art show, old-time music and dancing. Poets, including Keith Flynn, Janisse Ray, Thomas Raincrow and Warren Wilson faculty such as Professor Catherine Reid and Sebastian Matthews, will read. The old-time music class will perform and Appalachian music an dance professor Phil Jamison will flatfoot. The art show will include pieces from students and faculty. This year’s theme is “what does Earth Day mean to us?’
“The point is to engage many of the senses to invoke a sense of wonder, reverence and a sense of responsibility,” Margo Flood, executive director of the Environmental Leadership Center, said. “If we bring music, art, spoken word and dance, we have more of a chance.”
Flood began the Heartstone Appalachian Earth Day celebration began when she edited the environmental literary journal, Heartstone, and asked some of the journal’s featured writers if they wanted to perform for the celebration on campus.
“They love coming together for this event, they all love being here and they all love Warren Wilson students,” Flood said.
Poet Janisse Ray read a piece on the theme of water a few years ago and is writing something new for this event. She expressed her love for the Heartstone version of the event, “it’s a profound celebration of human dependence on the earth, especially the part of the earth we know as western North Carolina. The event is almost a ceremony.”
Ray admired Warren Wilson and the way the school addresses climate change. “I truly love and admire Warren Wilson College and jump on any chance to be part of what you all are doing there. You’re the model of sustainability, and are thinking incredibly well about how we’re going to live on this planet without destroying it. [...] I always come away from a day at Warren Wilson incredibly inspired and full of hope.”
“After hearing her, how could you find a reason not to care,” Flood said of Ray’s enthusiasm. “Janisse will speak to personal responsibility,” Flood said.
Also reading is poet Keith Flynn. He had a powerful response when asked why he participates in the Heartstone Earth Day celebration.
“I do not want to be part of the first generation to witness the decline of our earth’s
viability for the children who come after us. In his dreams of Paradise, Adam did not
truly appreciate the uniqueness of Eden until he was expelled. We have had the warnings
of scientists for the last 40 years about the depletion of our planet’s vital resources and
the consequences for the human race.”
Flynn also discussed the importance of the community coming together to address environmental issues.
“It is a singular event for many of the poets of our area to gather together in one
place and share their common belief: that we should be stewards of the earth and
hold no dominion over her various systems.”
Professor Phil Jamison also plays a big role. He is working with the music and dance elements in the Heartstone celebration.
“He has a creative feel for this,” Flood said.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the original Earth Day, which was founded in part by Flood’s hero, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Flood mentioned that college students also played a significant role in establishing an Earth Day.
Another important element of Earth Day, said Flood, is community-building.
“It is such a tremendous opportunity to come together as a community and say, ‘these are issues [we need to] address.”
Flood also feels that the Heartstone Appalachian Earth Day is an opportunity to bring a more diverse group of people together.
“Earth Day is a great opportunity to come together to evoke reverence. What better way to do that than music, dance, art and spoken word?”