Earth Day is On - and More Important Than Ever This Year
How fitting that April 22nd of this year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day? This monumental anniversary comes at a time in which humans around the world are starting to realize more and more the effects of our actions.
In the half-century since the environmental movement began in 1970, we have learned more about the impact of our daily lives on this planet.
This is arguably the most important time to recognize the annual Earth Day celebrations. They may have to be altered slightly due to isolation restrictions, but we should all know that getting involved in the environment movement has never been more crucial—and getting involved at home is totally possible.
Earth Day History
Leading up to the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the United States in a lot of ways looked like it does today. Americans were consuming a lot of fossil fuels and industry was responsible for a lot of pollution, receiving nothing more than a slap on the wrist from the government.
However, unlike today, one thing was different—most American citizens were totally oblivious to the consequences of their actions.
Much of this changed in 1962, when Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring was published. The book sold in more than 24 countries and for the first time raised awareness about how convenience and consumerism were impacting living organisms and the environment.
The book highlighted the links between public health and pollution, and just a few years later, the first Earth Day was the official celebration of the newly foundedenvironmental voice.
Gaylord Nelson was the US Senator from Wisconsin who founded Earth Day. As a response to witnessing a massive oil spill in California and taking hints from the anti-war movement playbook, Nelson was inspired to get environmental issues into mainstream awareness and get environmental protection onto the national political agenda.
Senator Nelson’s idea was successful. On April 22nd, 1970 more than 10% of the population (20 million Americans) gathered around the US to demonstrate for a sustainable and healthy environment. Earth Day was born.
By the end of that year, and with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created. In addition, government Acts were adopted to save endangered species as well promote clean water and clean air.
Why 2020 is a Big Year for Mother Earth
The environmental movement and Earth Day celebrations have grown over the past few decades—as has awareness of our current climate crisis. Young generations are especially frustrated by lack of action to protect our environment, and if recent youth-led Global Climate Marches are any indication, there are millions of people ready to take action this year for Earth Day.
Not only have the past few years welcomed record heat, and extreme storms, floods, and wildfires, but the current coronavirus pandemic has also exposed how societal injustice is exacerbated by crises like these.
When it comes to both climate change and coronavirus, vulnerable populations are more likely to experience the negative impacts. This can be seen in the United States with people living without health insurance living in neighborhoods with poor air quality—people who are disproportionately ending up in hospitals right now.
Not only will climate change continue to bring increasingly intense heat waves and storms, but it will also cause more zoonotic pandemics, diseases that spread from animals to humans— much like the novel coronavirus.
If there is a pressing time to take action and stand up from Mother Earth, that time is now.
What’s on the Lineup for Earth Day 2020?
Earth Day Network
The official Earth Day website is taking this year's events online. Earth Day live will go digital for the first time in history. While no one will be marching in the streets, events around the globe will still push for action at every level of society. Their website is a great place to calculate your carbon footprint, learn about Earth Day, and find digital Earth Day events in your area.
The website has partnered with the Wilson Center and the US Department of State to develop an Earth Challenge 2020 app. With a goal to engage with millions of citizens, the app will allow individuals to take part in a citizen science project. This is the most accessible and transparent citizen science database ever created and will encourage participants to help contribute to research dealing with insects, climate, food security, water quality, air quality, and plastics.
The first step is with plastics and you’ll get your chance to contribute to existing global data about plastic pollution—all you need is a mobile phone! Find out more and download the app here!
The Great Global Cleanup
More than 400 million people were anticipated to help out with the Great Global Cleanup. Some efforts have been postponed until later in the year and groups are no longer permitted to gather to do large-scale cleanups. However, individuals are still encouraged to get outside and clean up in their local areas! Every action counts! Volunteers can clean up on their own or in a small group (as long as it complies with local regulations). Head down to your local river or park to dispose of litter and recycle if possible. Just don’t forget your gloves!
Perhaps knowing that more of us will be sitting at home, the Discovery Channel has prepared a set of Earth Day specials that will begin airing in the middle of April. Earth Day programming includes The Story of Plastic and Zac Efron’s The Great Global Clean Up, a documentary highlighting Innovations in recycling and waste management.
The world's largest environmental experience will be held from April 16th through April 27th. The event, in partnership with National Geographic, will include virtual conferences, virtual events, and a virtual film festival.
The main celebration will virtually stream on April 22nd and will feature Tia Nelson, the daughter of Gaylord Nelson, as well as a National Geographic Explorer and academics, authors, and political figures. The film festival will begin screening virtuallyon April 22nd and will run until April 27th. It also includes submissions from participants in the 2020 youth film competition.
Yes, You Can Get Involved Too!
If you don't want to spend another day in front of the TV or a laptop, and you don't feel comfortable heading outside to pick up trash, there are many other ways you can still get involved for this year's Earth Day.
Eat an Earth-Friendly Meal
Plant-based meals are better for you and better for the planet. Why not start a trend of weekly plant-based meals this Earth Day? If you've got a pantry full of non-perishable items, you are in luck! Rice, beans, lentils—they all make tasty nutrient-packed and plant-based meals!
This vegetarian red beans and rice recipe is vegan and a great way to incorporate several veggies. If you want to try your hand at making tofu, this General Tso's recipe is the way to go. And if you're new to plant-based eating (and kind of picky) this linkwill take you to 58 different recipes—sure to satisfy any craving.
Read a Book
Yeah, we get it, reading a book isn't in the most profound tip—but when you think of all the streaming we've been doing recently (and the massive carbon footprint it produces) reading a book seems like a more appropriate solution for Earth Day.
So, shut down the laptop and pick up a new book. Better yet, make reading part of your daily routine starting on April 22nd.
Take a Political Stand
It's political season and we’re amidst a global crisis—there is no better time to get involved politically. If you've never voted or have never really paid attention to candidates and issues, now is the time to start doing so. Use this time at home to start doing research on current and possible candidates and talk to friends and family about what they know.
Be sure to check out where each candidate stands environmentally and be sure it aligns with your idea of a sustainable future.
Did you know that many utility companies offer renewable energy options? While you may not be able to install solar panels, you might have the option of sourcing greener energy. Check out what your local electric utilities offer. While you may have to pay a premium up front, you'll most likely notice savings over time.
Use this time to take stock of what you got at home. Consider what items can be shared or donated. If there is a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, drop off books regularly (just make sure they've been disinfected). If you're not ready to do away with anything just yet, set aside items to donate once thrift stores are open again.
Similarly, consider what garden items you can donate. Garden exchanges are popping up on apps like Nextdoor, OfferUp, and Facebook. Use these platforms to share seeds and donate excess soil or mulch. You can still share these items and maintain social distancing, just figure out a process that works for you and the person you're sharing with.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the recent news, use Earth Day as a way to feel reinvigorated and excited. There has never been a better time to help protect our planet. From apps and citizen science projects, to plant-based meals at home and virtual Earth Day screenings, there's a lot going on this April 22nd. Cheers to Mother Earth this Earth Day 2020!