Earthdance: Peace, social responsibility, environmental justice

Sherrie Campbell

Sherrie Campbell, former principal dancer with Peoria Ballet, feels the rhythm and vibration of nature in her movements. Here, as ancient oaks stand watch, she moves through a choreography in her mind. (PHOTO BY CLARE HOWARD)

Sherrie Campbell uses her body to communicate, heal, nurture and inspire. The former principal dancer with Peoria Ballet says her deep connection with the environment and dance has helped her navigate rough periods in life and infuses her with healing grace.

Her focus on the natural world gives her both strength and pain, especially as signs mount indicating environmental damage resulting from human-caused global climate change.

This year marks the 49th anniversary of Earth Day. Campbell is hosting a free public program, EarthDance 2019, for adults and children from 1 to 4 p.m. April 27 at Dayspring Church in East Peoria.

The program will be interactive with meditation stations to reflect upon gratitude to the elements.

The goal by the end of the session is for participants to leave pledging their intention to do something for nature.

“What can we do so the Earth is grateful to us?” Campbell said. “What do we have and what can we use for the health of the environment in ways we’ve never thought of before?”

Keynote speaker at the event is Mike Miller, supervisor of environmental and interpretive services at the Peoria Park District.

“Global climate change is the paramount challenge of our age,” Miller said. “We are at a fork in the road, and our window for action is narrowing. Our ability to shape our destiny has never been more obvious. We have to develop a language where important conversations can happen and can lead to results.

“We have to put hubris aside and focus on long-term solutions. The survival of the planet depends on that.”

He discounts arguments that contend money prevents a full throttled approach to climate change. He said money is just a tool in the toolbox and allocation of resources must be refocused. By his analysis, Peoria’s combined sewer overflow utility tax is seriously flawed. For example, the Peoria Park District is being charged $320,000 in the CSO tax and was forced to eliminate staff. One of those was a horticulturist who was hired by Champaign to implement that city’s urban green infrastructure.

“We don’t even have a city arborist on city staff,” Miller said. “That means we are not investing in the tools to make our green infrastructure work.”

By shifting the money generated by the CSO tax to fill budget holes, the city is alienating residents and not creating a collaborative effort to tackling the problem.

“The tax is a barrier to solving the problem,” he said, noting that how we understand our environmental problems is critical to how we solve them.

“We have to think about our cultural and spiritual connections with the land. We have to build our visceral connections with the land,” Miller said. “Science is part of the story, but there is something more in the human condition that makes us decide to implement changes.”

Miller said his keynote speech at EarthDance 2019 will develop on these themes and will reflect hope and optimism and cite successes like Emiquon Nature Preserve along the Illinois River south of Peoria.

Campbell said she was inspired to organize the program after hearing four Native American elder “Water Protectors” speak about Standing Rock.

“We have a tendency to stick our heads in the sand and not get involved in so many issues,” she said. “Yet when we do get involved in these issues we derive such a sense of awe and connection with each other. These are the ways we connect and make a difference. Every individual can do something. We all have a role to play.”

Campbell said Earth Day is like one giant art installation. Information, understanding and knowledge are conveyed through art, music, dance and science. She’d like everyone attending Earthdance 2019 to bring 10 used plastic grocery bags and explore creative uses for the bags.

Sponsors of the event include Dayspring Church, Peoria Interfaith Alliance, Faith in Place and individual donors.

The event is free but registration is required,

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