At 11:56 a.m. on June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River famously caught fire, and instantly the world changed. Almost everyone knows this. What people don't know is that the Cuyahoga caught fire twice before, in 1949 and, spectacularly, in 1952, causing 10 times the damage of the 1969 fire.
The '69 event forced progressive people worldwide into action. The first Earth Day took place less than a year later, and events were put into motion that resulted in President Richard Nixon creating the Environmental Protection Agency.
Why doesn't Cleveland take advantage of this unique place in history, celebrating our central role in the environmental movement, while at the same time eliminating one of our Achilles heels?
Take a look at Memphis, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Rather than ignore that the most egregious public murder in the history of race relations took place in their town, they built the National Civil Rights Museum on the spot of the assassination, the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis.
Mouldn't it make sense for Cleveland to build a National Environmental Museum right on the banks of the Cuyahoga River? Exhibits could address water quality and international research methods, and emphasize how the river and Lake Erie have been cleaned up since the 1960s. And if we really learned how to celebrate the environmental movement instead of feeling guilty about the Cuyahoga, we could invite Deep Purple to reunite at the groundbreaking to lead us in a sing-along of their hit song, "Smoke on the Water." This month, enjoy an eco event and stop feeling so guilty.
H2Ohio This newly formed group encourages the sustainable and creative use of fresh water. March 2, from noon to 1 p.m., The Environmental Town Hall Brown Bag Lunch Series presents attorney Dave Nash, a member of the H2Ohio partnership, talking/on the regional initiative to promote economic development while preserving our region's most valuable natural asset. The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, 2600 South Park Blvd., Shaker Heights, (216) 321-5935, www.shakerlakes.org
Bow Ball 2004 Dress in vintage, swing style or black tie for the Cleveland Rowing Foundation's second-annual Bow Ball, a benefit to sustain the nonprofit organization that houses all of Northeast Ohio's rowing programs. There'll be hors d'oeuvres, raffles, silent auction items and music by Ernie Krivda and his Swing City Orchestra. Call (440) 808-2288 or (440) 519-0006. March 6 from 7 p.m. to midnight at The Silver Grille at Tower City Center, 200 Prospect Ave., www.clevelandrows.org
Night Tracks Overnight Adventure Rather your wolf pack (groups of 15 or more, ages 6 and up) and experience a unique overnight stay at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Play games and use Native American folklore to learn how wolves have been viewed through the ages. As part of a scientific team, participants will track a "wolf" with high-tech radio tracking devices and the Internet. Try out night-vision binoculars and enjoy an evening snack and a light breakfast. You'll stay at the Wolf Cabin. Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. Call the education department at (216) 635-3391 for more info.