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Speaker, author, environmentalist wants every day to be Earth Day

POSTED: April 20, 2009 11:54 p.m.

Earth Day and all its tree-hugging glory will be no more than a memory by Thursday.

But Georgia-born author and environmentalist Janisse Ray said she hopes to inspire Hall County residents make Earth Day an every day event.

Ray will hold a discussion Wednesday at Featherbone Communiversity centered on creating ethical guidelines that force people to consider their role in Earth preservation year-round, she said.

"It has to become almost a religion," said Ray, a Baxley resident.

Through her words, the 47-year-old Ray has become a folk historian and an activist for the preservation of old-growth forests and wetlands in Southeast Georgia.

Her first major book, "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood," focused on Ray’s upbringing in Appling County and the disappearing ecosystem connected to the longleaf pine forests in the region. The book won the American Book Award and caused The New York Times to dub Ray the Southeast’s Rachel Carson, who founded the contemporary environmental movement.

Communiversity founder Gus Whalen said he asked Ray to speak at the Earth Day seminar because of her connection to Georgia and her devotion to preserving and restoring wildlife in Georgia.

Ray is a founding member of the Altamaha Riverkeeper and is on the board of directors of the Environmental Leadership Center of Warren Wilson College.

"I think she’s a very articulate, contemporary voice for Earth Day issues," said Whalen.

"What makes Janisse so appropriate is the fact that it is Earth Day and I think we have a community that is very sensitive to these issues."

As her own goal for Wednesday, Ray said she hopes to encourage people that their individual actions can have an impact on the environment. She also wants to reverse the conception that humans have an unchecked entitlement to the Earth’s resources.

"We’ve been led to believe that this Earth has unlimited resources and we have a right to use them up," Ray said. "And that’s not true."


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