Earth Day Marks its 50th Year with Virtual Offers

Lauren Hill

Senior Contributor

It’s said that when Earth Day happened for the first time in 1970, the California event signified the beginning of a changing in the tide of climate activism. What began as a US-focused environmental ‘teach-in’ has since gone on to become the world’s largest environmental movement, with events taking place in as many as 193 countries.

Back to the Beginning

The United States senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day on April 22nd, 1970. This first Earth Day is credited for launching a wave of environmental action from the Clean Air and Clean Water acts to the act for Endangered Species. Focused solely on the United States, this was then taken to an international stage by the organisation of environmental advocate Denis Hayes who initiated events in around 141 countries for Earth Day in 1990. 

Since that time, Earth Day has continually raised the international awareness of environmental issues across the world and sparked responses to environmental issues. It was on Earth Day in 2016 that 174 countries and the European Union signed the Paris agreement for the Climate protection treaty.

Earth Day 2020

The theme for Earth Day’s 50th edition, climate action, was identified as the most pressing topic based on the challenges and opportunities involved. With events cancelled across the globe due to the pandemic, the organisation behind Earth Day adapted to the challenging time by establishing a digital event programme, providing a stage for environmental awareness events happening around the world. The Earth Day Live online calendar provides an inventory of everything that’s going on, from film screenings to artist presentations.

The organisation hopes Earth Day will encourage people to do what they can to help protect and restore the planet on an individual basis, which can begin with getting involved in any of the Earth Day 2020 events.

Getting Involved

Join the Get Your Green Back Tompkins event seeing around 50 presenters and performers celebrate 50 years of Earth Day with the theme Connection, Solidarity and Action. Tune into the Virtual St. Louis Earth Day Festival, which runs until April 26th, for daily live content including music and poetry. And see the inaugural Climate Changemaker Teen Film Festival in Santa Monica giving young filmmakers a platform to share short films that tell impactful stories about climate change. 

While the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County had to cancel the Napa Valley Earth Day festival, inspiration is now being brought online with Visit Earth Day Napa: Gone Virtual providing a platform for events including a wine auction.

In the UK, the British artist Ben Whitehouse is creating a global citizen artwork known as the Sky Day Project to connect people to our sky and each other. The Zero Waste NYC Workshop is hosting the Deep Dive into Food on Earth Day webinar in collaboration with the zero waste restaurant in Brooklyn, Rhodora Wine Bar, and farmers’ market delivery service, Farm to People. And the Columbia Area Earth Day Festival is marking the environmental awareness day with a virtual art show.

As well as giving insight into the issues across Earth Day 2020’s theme, these events provide a window into life in different parts of the world.

How NASA is Marking Earth Day

NASA has long had significance on Earth Day too, with the iconic Earthrise photo that Apollo 8 returned just before the first-ever Earth Day giving people a greater appreciation of our planet. Providing more than just inspiration, NASA makes a difference to the environment through the development of technology used to protect and clean up the planet, whether that’s helping planes fly farther on less fuel or developing sources of renewable energy.

NASA’s Earth-observing satellites measure and track air pollution to create global data records critical to understanding the impacts and causes of air pollution, and the data and images from NASA satellite instruments assist wildlife movement tracking in conservation.

On April 22nd, NASA plans to celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary as a time to reaffirm our commitment to understanding our planet’s interconnected systems and protecting it for future generations. To get people around the world involved, NASA is endeavouring to engage people through its Earth Day Toolkit. This digital platform provides resources for people around the world to use, from educational resources such as hands-on activities for kids to daily updated NASA Earth Observatory articles.

Making a Difference

In addition to all of these virtual events, the Earth Day Network is helping people get involved this April by inviting the public to take part in the Earth Day Daily Challenge incorporating 20 ways you can help fight the climate crisis from home.

Ranging from opting for a plant-based meal to repairing a household item instead of replacing it with something new, these are actions you can then continue to integrate into your daily life.

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