Celebrating 50th Earth Day During Pandemic
In 1969, a massive California oil spill devastated wildlife and an Ohio river literally caught fire. One year later, in 1970, 20 million Americans observed the first Earth Day. The public support pushed Congress to adopt legislation regarding clean air, clean water, toxic substances, endangered species, Federal land policy, occupational safety and surface mining, for a start.
By Earth Day’s 40th anniversary in 2010, hundreds of millions joined events in 192 countries. For the 50th anniversary this year, the Earth Day Network had hoped to mobilize one billion people. When COVID-19 became a global pandemic, Earth Day shifted from marching in the streets to virtual activism.
The environmental movement isn’t limited to April 22. Earth Day has expanded to the point that April is now known as Earth Month. In truth, the key message behind the global celebration is that learning, advocacy, and individual actions should take place 365 days of the year. So how can you take part locally while keeping your distance? Read on.
Since gathering in public spaces is no longer an option for Earth Day celebrations, area nonprofits have had to rethink how they will honor the spirit of the holiday.
Lucy Heller, outreach coordinator for the Maryland Office of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay laid out this agenda for this year’s celebration: a three-hour selection of inspiring short films about nature and conservation issues. Then the program moves to action: taking a walk and picking up trash, working in the garden, tree planting, replacing incandescent lights with more efficient LED’s or adopt other green practices at home. (www.allianceforthebay.org/events/earth-day-facebook-live/)
Elvia Thompson of Annapolis Green had hoped to share her organization’s message in person at the Severna Park Earth Day Festival this year. Instead, the group will honor Earth Day virtually. Annapolis Green presents a virtual electric car showcase April 25. Viewers will learn how driving electric benefits the environment and mitigates climate change effects, what it costs to operate an electric vehicle and how to take a long road trip. The EV Earth Day Showcase is also part of the national Drive Electric Earth Day (www.annapolisgreen.com)
From the Annapolis Green website, you can also find virtual events for the City of Annapolis, the Green Give initiative, the Severna Park Earth Day Festival, and the Maryland Public Television Earth Day lineup for the week.
Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley has declared the entire month of April a time for action to protect the earth. The mayor proposed 30 daily pledges and ideas for simple, stay-at-home earth-friendly practices that Annapolitans can incorporate into daily life. Here are the four categories:
- Water: clean up after your pet, conserve water in the garden
- Air: walk, bike or use transit, switch to LED bulbs
- Habitat: grow oysters, use natural cleaning products, create a pollinator garden
- Earth: opt for paperless billing, plant a tree, create a meal plan to reduce food waste
“We have been overwhelmed by coverage about coronavirus, We wanted to continue with our Earth Month and move to an online celebration of Earth Day because nothing is more important to the future of our city and future generations than reversing the effects of climate change,” said Buckley.
In Anne Arundel County, the 11 partners in the annual Green Give fundraising initiative have assembled an ambitious program of virtual and hands-on activities for April. These range from video tours of stream restoration projects to lessons on how to attract birds and pollinators. You can learn how to combat invasive species, identify native trees and plants, and record the critters that live in your yard. Oysters also are featured in programs that describe how you can grow your own and help clean the water. (https://www.greengive.org/earth-day-2020)
And if Earth Day leaves you longing for a natural experience, the Chesapeake Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service invites you to Find Your Chesapeake online (www.FindYourChesapeake.com).
“You can check out our wildlife webcams, operated in partnership with explore.org, take a virtual tour of some amazing sites of the Chesapeake, including the recently-designated National Marine Sanctuary at Mallows Bay, and more,” says Joel Dunn, Conservancy president. “If you need a distraction from the news, we hope this website will serve to help you through these difficult times.”
National Park Week coincides with Earth Day this year and offers a host of virtual activities and experiences. Head to www.nps.gov for details, and then check out Google Earth’s tours of 31 National Parks using the Voyager feature. (https://earth.google.com/web/)
Celebrating Earth Day reminds us that simple changes in behavior make a difference and we can stay engaged throughout the year. So even if you are reading this after April 22, it’s not too late to honor our planet. Most of the virtual programs will remain available online for later viewing. You can adopt your own best practices for saving the planet and advocate for positive action to preserve the environment. It’s Earth Day Anyway, every day.