Saturdays with Shavara
Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary
Hello to all my lovely green people and thank you for joining me for another Saturday with Shavara. Every year I look forward to this particular post covering one of my favorite environmental holidays; Earth Day, and this year is even more special because it is the 50th Anniversary of this global celebration. The anticipation and planning phase for this momentous day traditionally starts months in advance with environmental groups, organizations and individuals hosting celebratory events and group cleanups around the world. Earth Day 2020 is turning out to be far different than expected with plans coming to a halt as so many of us are still ‘sheltering in place’ and practicing social distancing. Society has had to become more creative with just about everything that we “typically” do, so it should come as no surprise that organizations have found ways to provide virtual platforms for individuals to collectively participate and celebrate this year’s event from home.
I’m going to give a brief refresher on the history of Earth Day before we get too far along in this post. Earth Day was the unified response to the environment crisis our earth was facing from; oil spills, air pollution, and waterways so polluted that they literally caught fire. The very first event took place on April 22, 1970, with 20 million Americans (roughly 10% of the U.S. population at that time) rallied in the streets, on college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. This movement led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency aka the EPA, which now oversees and regulates environmental practices, and continuously works to pass Acts to protect all areas of the environment. The first Earth Day is also recognized for propelling the modern environmental movement, and today is known as the planet’s largest civic event. This year is the 50thanniversary of the inaugural day and will be celebrated for the first time as a Digital Earth Day. You may be asking yourself how can an event like Earth Day be celebrated virtually and still have the same impact? I’ll admit I too wondered what the impact would be if people weren’t able to come together in groups to participate, but with an open mind it’s easy to embrace this ‘new normal’ and allow for the fluidity of change to be something appreciated rather than criticized.
The theme for Earth Day 2020 is the multifaceted topic of climate action –– spotlighting the call for action. This theme was selected after being deemed the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. In order to adhere to the new health recommendations to social distance and avoid hosting or attending large gathering the Earth Day Network’s President has made a call for global mobilization. This call for 24 hours of action is in response to all of what Earth Day encompasses and the fact that Covid-19 actually acts as a reminder to us of what’s at stake in our fight for the planet, which is to address the environmental threats to people and the planet.
Earth Day is about more than just a fun booth you visit or sporting a cute ‘earth themed’ shirt, but a call to action and advocating for the changes that will transform our planet and positively impact our climate crisis. According to the Earth Day Network; with our current state of “normal,” a world where pandemics and extreme weather events span the globe it leaves already marginalized and vulnerable communities at greater risk.We may not be able to gather in large groups due to the potential spread of the virus changing the traditional group cleanups, fairs, workshops and celebrations, but there are still ways to make an individual impact because frankly… it’s just that important.
There is no time like the present… like the old saying goes, so the call for mobilization will now largely be based online –– the safest platform for many of our social interactions. There are two big virtual engagements being put on by the official network; utilizing the smartphone app as part of the Earth Challenge 2020 citizen science initiative, and a push towardteaching materials and free downloadable toolkits that children and adults can use even with schools closed. You can also find many local organizations hosting online webinars, and virtual celebrations. Google has created 360-degree tours of 113 of the national park sites, which includes monuments, historic sites and shorelines. National Geographic is hosting speakers, film festivals and student activities. Our very own Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has resources for kids and adults alike to get involved with celebrating the day. There will also be a virtual climate conference held from April 20-25th, with more than 100 speakers from over five continents held to celebrate the 50thanniversary of Earth Day. The topics for this conference will cover everything from climate to agriculture and can be viewed on the partnership program titled “We Don’t Have Time.”
The goal for not only myself in writing this post, but all environmental based organizations creating virtual tools is to provide resources with hopes that one of these many options fits your fancy. There are so many others out there not mentioned above, and I challenge you to take some time to find the one that spurs you into action. Your action can be taking a stroll around your neighborhood and picking up litter as you go (with gloves of course), making an action plan for your household on ways to be better environmental stewards, or talking to your children about the importance and history of the day. The point is DO, do something no matter how big or small. This is where I leave you and as always; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!
“We are all in this together and we’re all on this planet together. No matter where you are in this world, we are connected by our challenges.” - The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
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