By Deborah Fleischer and Ana Toepel, Green Impact
This year, on April 22, Earth Day will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The current pandemic situation has most of us feeling a range of challenging emotions, and it serves as a reminder of how life is both so fragile and so precious. Despite everything we’re dealing with right now, it seems like the perfect time to celebrate our life-giving Earth, which ultimately sustains us and provides an abundance of beauty and hope to help us get through difficult times. Earth Day—a day set aside to focus on the environment—is considered both the largest secular observance in the world and the birth of the modern environmental movement. It has been instrumental in increasing people’s awareness of our planet, pollution, climate change, the destruction of the rainforest, endangered species, and many other environmental issues. It has also been a boon to sustainability, encouraging people to adopt eco-friendly behaviors and “make every day Earth Day.”
A Brief History of Earth Day
Earth Day was started in 1970 after Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson witnessed the massive and destructive oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969. He was inspired by the student anti-war movement and had the idea that maybe the energy of the movement could power the emerging concern about air and water pollution and make environmental protection an item on the political agenda. It turned out it could. On April 22 that year, 20 million people (10% of the population) demonstrated in massive rallies and protests all across the country for a healthy, sustainable environment. The event was so successful at uniting people across political lines around the common cause of protecting the environment that it led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts in the first few years of its observance. In 1990 Earth Day spread to countries around the globe and was instrumental in spurring global recycling efforts and the UN Earth Summit of 1992. The year 2000 saw Earth Day expand to 184 countries and inspire a worldwide focus on global warming and clean energy. In 2010 the Earth Day Network brought 250,000 people to the National Mall for a Climate Rally and observance grew to 192 countries. It became the biggest civic event on the planet.
The Earth Day tradition continues today—and it may be even more important now as we are faced with the increasing impacts of climate change and damage to the ecosystems that make Earth thrive. Even with sheltering at home, there are opportunities to participate, and we’ve included some below. Don’t miss the chance to help make history!
- Take time to appreciate nature—whether in your backyard or even by peeking out the window. A walk through your neighborhood, respecting social distancing, can be an excellent remedy during these challenging times. See our post on Forest Bathing.
- Travel virtually to some of the Earth’s most beautiful places by taking virtual tours of five of America’s National Parks.
- Have a movie night honoring the Earth. Check out the free films offered by the DC Environmental Film Festival. While the official festival is over, many films can still be enjoyed in April for free.
- Improve your green thumb! Practice gardening at home, outdoors or indoors.
- Connect with Earth Day Network to take action with your local government and community.
- Take a stand for #GreenFlushes. Tell Costco to stop using ancient forests to make TP.
- What COVID-19 is Teaching About Climate Change: Join Women in Cleantech and Sustainability for their Earth Day 50th anniversary virtual event. The evening features panelists who will share how COVID-19 is informing how climate action (5 pm PST).
- Learn more about why soil health is human health.
- Explore these ways to stay grounded and sane in the midst of COVID-19 and honor the Earth.
Post your photos of you doing any of the above activities and tag @GreenImpact2014 on Instagram.