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In Your Spare Time, Try Saving the Planet

Volunteer work can help cure both boredom and environmental ills. Several groups recruit youths.


Kids, here we are closing in on school vacation, and many of you haven't a clue what you will be doing this summer. Instead of hanging around the house or the mall, why not consider doing some environmental volunteer work?

You don't have to go Brazil to do it, according to Jon Earl, a local environmental educator who directs youthful volunteers to myriad environmental restoration projects all over the area.

There are plenty of opportunities available in the mountains around the Valley and Ventura County, the wetlands over in Malibu and the primate shelter in Santa Clarita. If you're interested in devoting part of your summer to helping save the planet, this month is the time to make arrangements.

Earl and partner Ellen Petty operate an award-winning volunteer program in Studio City, Rhapsody in Green, which organizes groups of volunteers, ages 10 and up, to work with local scientists. Their work around the Valley and the county has won kudos from Mayor Richard Riordan, U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and The Times.

The continuing task, as Earl explains it, is to weed, trim and replant damaged areas such as canyons and wetlands, "restoring the land to what it was before it was settled. With the right combination of plants, animals such as the butterflies and the woodpeckers will return and maintain the balance."

Rhapsody in Green is one of several organizations that kids can contact to do environmental work on weekends or for weeks at a time. Each group is ready to refer you to another group if you have a particular interest, or location or time constraints.

Right now, Earl is helping recruit volunteers to work May 25 at the Center for Gibbon Studies in Santa Clarita. This is a shelter and research station devoted to the smallest ape in the world. Volunteers do cleanup and fix-up work as well as tend the animals; they're needed throughout the summer.

Saving the planet and its denizens isn't something for the timid or people without a sense of humor. On a recent day, the recorded announcement at the Rhapsody in Green volunteer headquarters requested callers to leave a message, because "we're not here right now. Due to ozone depletion, we're out basting rattlesnakes with sun block."


Here's a partial list of summer outdoor volunteer opportunities for kids:

* CREW (Concerned Resource and Environmental Workers); call (805) 646-5085.

* Wetlands Action Network; held Fridays June-August in Malibu; call (310) 456-1700.

* Tree Care Corps, a project of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy; call (805) 646-7930.

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