Sacramento celebrates Earth Day with live bats and composting

Molly Shea of ​​the California Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a visitor spinning a salmon life cycle wheel during the Sacramento Earth Day celebration at Southside Park on Sunday, April 21, 2024.

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“Oh man, you just got eaten by a catfish,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife interpreter Molly Shea said to six-year-old Sebastian Alvarez after spinning the salmon wheel of survival for the tenth time Sunday afternoon.

Each turn and the number he landed on represented a different opportunity in the “tough life” of a salmon, Shea explained. Salmon lay up to 5,000 eggs, of which only about two survive their entire life cycle.

As Sebastian discovered at every turn, salmon can be eaten by predators, caught by a fisherman or trapped in an irrigation pump. People contribute to the already high odds against these fish.

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Sebastian was one of hundreds of children who spent their Sunday learning about human impact on wildlife and the environment as part of Sacramento’s annual Earth Day celebration.

The celebration, the largest of its kind in the Capital Region, commemorates the original 1970 Earth Day and reminds people that citizen action can result in environmental change, said Michael O’Sullivan, board member of the Environmental Council of Sacramento.

Earth Day is celebrated worldwide every year on April 22.

Visitors can learn more about California plant life at the California Native Plant Society booth on Sunday, April 21, 2024. Cameron Clark [email protected]

“I hope (people) take away something they can do to preserve the environment, get outside and save the earth,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Sunday’s event, held at Southside Park, featured more than 100 exhibitors and vendors ranging from electric vehicle test drives and composting stations to live bat shows and plant nurseries.

A few feet away from the CDFW booth, the city of Sacramento handed out free organic waste bins to recycle food scraps or food-soiled paper. The goal was to encourage participation in new state rules requiring Californians to recycle organic waste.

Recycled organics taken to the city’s composting facility are turned into potting soil for residents, said Leonardo Falcon, a commercial compliance analyst for the city. This reduces the city’s ecological footprint and encourages more vegetation in the region.

“In this way, namely recycling organics, your organics are actually converted into another product,” says Falcon.

Across the park, Corky Quirk, director of Northern California Bats, taught people of all ages to appreciate what she calls misunderstood animals. Wearing gloves, Quirk took bats from her display cases to show people the flying mammals up close.

“There’s a lot of lack of knowledge,” says Quirk, whose colleagues have been dubbed the bat lady of Northern California. “People are sometimes afraid of what we don’t understand or have never seen.”

Northern California Bats Director Corky Quirk shows visitors a pale bat during the Sacramento Earth Day celebration at Southside Park on Sunday, April 21, 2024. Cameron Clark [email protected]
A pale bat is shown to visitors passing by the Northern California Bats stand during the Sacramento Earth Day celebration at Southside Park on Sunday, April 21, 2024. Cameron Clark [email protected]

Quirk said bats are important to California’s ecosystem, given the state’s dependence on agriculture. American bats primarily eat flying insects, serving as a form of pest control and reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

“Organic farmers love having bats,” Quirk says. “Backyard gardens love to have bats.”

Quirk also showed off a pale bat, the newest symbol of the state of California. Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 732, making the pale bat: Antrozous pallidusthe official state bat.

“It’s our bat,” Quirk said. “It’s another way we can help people connect with nature and learn.”

Eleanor Pagan feels animal fur at the California Department of Fish And Wildlife booth during the Sacramento Earth Day celebration at Southside Park on Sunday, April 21, 2024. Cameron Clark [email protected]

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Mathew Miranda reports on Latino communities for The Sacramento Bee’s Equity Lab. He holds degrees from California State University, Chico and UC Berkeley. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and is a proud son of Salvadoran immigrants.