Sixth graders from the Pelican Gate Primary School in West End help plant a guava tree and a soursop tree during Earth Day on Friday. (Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

It was a rocky start to planting for the team at Pelican Gate Primary School during Earth Day on Friday.

“Remember the mountain is made of volcanic rock,” said teacher Lois Freeman-Augustine. “These islands are of volcanic origin.”

Students took hoes and shovels to the ground, working hard to break off rock in order to plant trees that they hope will bear guava and soursop one day.

The supplies — including the trees, a biodegradable planter, fences, posts and ties — were donated by Green VI as part of a larger effort to help the Virgin Islands community get involved in Earth Day celebrations.

On Friday, the organisation facilitated the planting of 44 trees in 14 different locations across four islands. Organisers said tree planting won’t solve the climate crisis, but it will make a difference in the VI.

“We’re still recovering from Irma, and part of what Irma took from us was a huge number of trees across the territory,” said Green VI Deputy Director Sarah Penney.“We just want to focus on tree planting as a way to continue the journey to recovery in a way that individuals can do.”

Public schools, private schools, church groups, businesses and individuals across all four major islands in the territory — including the senior home in Virgin Gorda and the Claudia Creque Educational Centre in Anegada — planted indigenous fruit trees as part of the observance.

In Virgin Gorda, children from the Bregado Flax Educational Centre Primary Divison came over to the secondary school to get involved, Ms. Penney said.

The students, she added, were “excited and passionate” about planting alongside their older counterparts.

“The trees we plant on Earth Day have a management plan with them,” Ms. Penney said. “So there’s a commitment to make sure they get a really strong start.”

Green VI plans to work with fourth graders throughout the year, and the students who planted trees pledged to be stewards of their trees until they graduate.

Observance history

Earth Day was established in 1970 and is observed on April 22 each year. This year’s theme was “Invest in Our Planet.”

“Last year we targeted reforestation and managed to get 109 trees into the ground through a combination of different plantings,” Ms. Penney said. “This year, we really wanted to help people see that it’s really not just money, but that you should invest your time and your mind.”

She added that the VI community is very active in working towards solutions for the climate crisis.

“A lot of people are willing to do the right thing just because it’s the right thing,” she said.

She noted that Carey Olsen law firm, the National Bank of the Virgin Islands, Deloitte, Coldwell Banker, and Smiths Gore helped fund the trees and tools needed for Earth Day. That included the trees, watering cans, shovels, picks and fencing.

“The way Earth Day was observed in the [VI] is the definition of how we can achieve sustainability,” Ms. Penney said. “It’s organised and thought through. It’s not just about the day, but also about the long term.”

The concept of Earth Day was first introduced by peace activist John McConnell at the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco following a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. The spill killed more than 10,000 animals and prompted activists to advocate for environmental regulations and education.

Environmental Rights Day was created on the first anniversary of the spill, followed by the creation of Earth Day.