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Earth Day 2002: Let's Clean Up Our Act

In its 32-year history, Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22, has grown into a truly global celebration, involving tens of thousands of events in nearly 200 countries around the world. Earth Day events-local park clean-ups, teach-ins, tree plantings, native habitat restorations, and much more-take place in big cities, remote wilderness reserves, even on ships at sea. If you're not involved already, this is your chance to be part of something that knows no boundaries and sends the message that your planet, in the words of the international Earth Day Network, is "precious, perishable, and belongs to all of us."

Ryan W., a student at St. Augustine High School on Florida's Atlantic Coast, is painfully aware of how delicate his favorite natural sanctuary is. "I've loved the ocean ever since I moved here six or seven years ago," he says. An avid surfer, he decided two years ago to do something to help preserve some of the fragile marine reef ecosystems off the Florida shore. With other students in St. Augustine High's Sea Explorers program, Ryan learned scuba diving, and has been studying an artificial reef (Using Reef Ball Artificial Reefs) built two years ago by former Sea Explorers. He's also explored the S.S. Eagle, a 270-foot-long freighter sunk as an artificial reef in 1985 and home to a variety of reef fish. The Eagle lies five miles offshore and 115 feet below the ocean's surface. By comparing these artificial reefs to ones that are built naturally by coral (and by Reef Balls) and other marine organisms, Ryan and his classmates hope to help others improve the methods by which artificial reefs are made.

Getting involved in the Sea Explorers program, says Ryan, turned out to be one of the best decisions he's ever made. Like most high school students, he's seen a number of classmates spend their time on things that don't make them feel nearly as successful or useful as he does. "I wish I could say it's impossible to dive when you're taking drugs," he says, "but I've seen people do it, even though they know how stupid it is. For me-and I know this sounds silly, but it's true-there's a natural high you get when you're diving that's like nothing else in the world. I remember the first time I dove down to the Eagle-115 feet down there. It was all I could talk about for a week afterward. It was incredible. And there's nothing I could take that could make me feel like that."

--Check out the work of St. Augustine High's Sea Explorers at http://www.sea-explorer.org/

--Want to find an Earth Day event near you? Check with the Earth Day Network at http://www.earthday.net/