Celebrate our Amazing Planet with World Wetlands Day

Earth Day might be the oldest environmental holiday, but saving the planet takes more than one day per year. That’s why environmental activists have devised so many other collective actions to remind Homo sapiens to take care of our habitat. In our Celebrate our Amazing Planet series, your kids will learn about the challenges affecting our environment and how they can be part of the solution.

The Gist

A little-known environmental day in the United States, World Wetlands Day, celebrated annually on February 2, marks the date of the Ramsar Convention, in which several nations made a pact to recognize and preserve many of the world’s most important wetland habitats by protecting them for sustainable development.

What in the world are wetlands? In a few words, they’re waterways that weave together our working world. They’re the lakes, rivers, streams, groundwater, swamps, mangroves, reservoirs, and rice paddies that provide the ecosystems for life to exist.

Without wetlands, nature wouldn’t have drinking water, we wouldn’t have food, and every landmass on earth would dry into a crusty desert. Besides that, they’re a habitat and ecosystem for a massive range of our planet’s biodiversity. Some of these wacky wetlands are actually pretty important!

The Ramsar Convention identified the most important wetlands areas around the world, many of which have been degraded by development and climate change, and seeks to sustainably and wisely manage them to preserve biodiversity and usability.

Each World Wetlands Day focuses on a different action we humans can take to raise awareness and promote sustainable actions to preserve these ecosystems. Past years have focused on aspects affecting the wetlands like agriculture, livelihoods, tourism, river basin management, and climate change.

The United States has been part of the wetlands conservation effort propelled by the Ramsar Convention since 1986 and has designated 38 wetlands areas for protection, including Everglades National Park in Florida, and the historic Chesapeake Bay Estuary in Virginia, where some of the first colonial settlers encountered the New World.

The Day

Just because the Wetlands have to share their holiday with Groundhog Day doesn’t mean they need to dwell in its shadow: adopt the wetlands-dwelling muskrat as your new mascot for February 2nd and let the festivities begin!

Visit the World Wetlands Day site map to find activities happening on the day of, or to organize your own. Check out what’s going on in your area. Perhaps a visit to your local wetlands habitat is the first important step to understanding the impact of the wetlands. Have your kids devise a habitat map and discover where the water comes from and where it goes. Count the different animals and plants you see along your path. Discover and engage!

Want to take the next step? Participate in a coastal or river clean up with your kids, extricating trash as you go. Spend the day tracing the butterfly effect to find out how polluted or restricted waterways affect the area’s biodiversity. Or, if you don’t have wetlands nearby, visit a zoo or natural science museum in your city to learn about the plants and animals that make wetlands regions their home.

Do you have a kid who snaps photos on something other than a cell phone? Participate in the wetlands photography contest, where those skills will finally be appreciated outside of Instagram! Each year, the contest winner gets a trip to a favorite wetlands ecosystem as the grand prize.

After the Fact

Apply to join the Ramsar Culture Network, where you can participate in five thematic groups, which sponsor events and activities centered around the themes of bio-cultural diversity, youth engagement, tourism, art, and agriculture. Once you’re a part of the network, the opportunities for studying and engaging with the wetlands will become more than a once-a-year project.

Conservation efforts and research with the Ramsar programs exist year-round, all across the world. If you’re interested in preserving your local waterways, there is always a way to get involved. Giving your kids an understanding of these ecosystems’ fragility is just the first step.

The first thing you can do on an every-day basis is conserve water. Once your kids know where it comes from and how precious it is, you can help them to remember to turn off the water while brushing their teeth, scrubbing their hands clean, or doing the dishes.

Streamline your kids’ morning water usage by taking a bucket into the shower. With the extra shower water they collect, have them water outdoor plants or wash the car. You’ll get twice as many chores in with half as much complaining. After all, it feels good to save the planet!

The Long Run

Wetlands are a unique characteristic of Planet Earth that make existence possible for all living things. Once your kids understand the dramatic stakes and grave consequences for our wetlands, hopefully they’ll want to preserve them. But if that doesn’t work, a little love and appreciation for splashing in puddles and cooling down on a hot summer’s day just might put the love of wetlands into them. Whatever works!

Will you and the family be participating in World Wetlands Day this year? What activities do you have planned? Share your ideas with us!

Tags : celebrations   celebrate our amazing planet   green holidays   environment   nature   world wetlands day   

Alissa Hamadey
Looking forward to more holidays from this series!