50 Years of Earth Day

The first Earth Day in 1970 mobilized millions of Americans for the protection of the planet. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

Earth Day led to passage of landmark environmental laws in the United States, including the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. Many countries soon adopted similar laws, and in 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day to sign the Paris Climate Agreement into force.

~From the Earth Day website: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/

Relating deeply to nature is a profound and crucial human desire, one that modern living had all but forgotten – until the world turned upside down. Now, many of us are taking daily walks.  We’re tucking seeds into the tender earth and watching for returning songbirds.  We’re enjoying the glorious sun, the pinhole stars, and even the occasional snowflake.  Try to spend some time each day sitting in the grass, walking beside a brook, searching out the perfect stone for your pocket, cloud watching, looking at the sky through the spring leaves of a tree, or contemplating the moss growing beneath your feet.

This year, while we can’t gather together to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, we can make our voices heard in other ways.  Today is a wonderful day to set our intentions for the year.  We make New Year’s resolutions – to lose weight, to eat better, to be more productive.  Why not use Earth Day as a day to make eco-resolutions?  Do you resolve to buy less plastic?  To compost?  To plant ten trees?  To eat less meat?  Maybe this is the year you finally trade in the gas guzzler for an electric car.  Or put solar panels on the roof.  Or start taking your children on weekly hikes. 

What else can we do?  We can sign petitions.  We can call our legislators.  We can write letters to the editor.  We can get involved with the town’s Energy Commission. 

We can donate our money or our time to causes that matter to us.  We can grow a row for Willing Hands so that more people will have access to the earth’s bounty.  We can give to conservation causes.  We can join a climate strike. 

We can participate in Green Up Day activities – not just on May 30, but every day.  We can help keep the earth around us beautiful and thriving.  We can take the Earth Day Challenge, 22 days of activities that encourage us to see how we can make a difference in the world.

And we can join with others – online.  Today (and the rest of this week) is the perfect time.  There are so many Earth Day celebrations and calls to action.  You can start with Earth Day’s own website.  Then, check out Earth Day Live for a three-day live stream of events starting today.  

Feeling the Earth Day spirit?  Looking for more activities?  Here’s a grab bag full.

Learn Something New

Celebrate Earth Day by joining Billings Farm’s educators on the next Ask Billings Farm Live on Facebook, April 22 at 1PM EDT. Learn how land use ideas changed and how Billings Farm’s founder continues to inspire sustainable practices today. Send your questions about Earth Day to askus@billingsfarm.org.  The celebration will continue at Billings Farm at Home – an online resource and education tool for families – with an array of information, videos, downloadable craft activities, and fun! Visit us at www.billingsfarm.org/billings-farm-at-home/.

Use the NASA Earth Day 2020: 50th Anniversary Toolkit  NASA is providing a wealth of science resources from across the agency for outreach to young people. The programs, games, videos, books, images and posters are free for teachers, students, parents and anyone.

Gather Scientific Data

Participate in Earth Challenge 2020the world’s largest citizen science initiative. Get the app for Android and iOS devices that enables you to gather scientific information on air quality and plastic pollution near you. Earth Challenge is a joint initiative by the Earth Day Network, the Wilson Center and the U.S. Department of State.

Attend a Virtual Conference

Earth Optimism Digital Summit hosted by the Smithsonian Conservation Commons. April 22-26. It is open to all and free. The program includes a film night; virtual workshops; virtual social networking; video competitions; and panels on envisioning the future, global health, sustainable food, climate change, protecting biodiversity, environmental justice, international perspectives, climate communication, and resilience. Speakers include Jose Andres, chef and humanitarian; Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the U.N. Climate Change Convention; Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University; Bob Inglis, executive director of republicEN.org; Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund; Bill McKibben, environmentalist and activist; and many more. The event also includes an opportunity to share your nature-themed artwork.

Earthx Conferences, in partnership with National Geographic, will be held April 22-27. They are open to all and free. The series of conferences will focus on energy, law, cities, technology, capital, women in the environment, the future and more. The 50th Earth Day Celebration will be livestreamed April 22, 12-7:30pm CST. It will include EarthxFilm from 1:30-2:30pm CST, speakers including Tia Nelson, daughter of Earth Day founder, Gaylord Nelson; National Geographic explorer Enric Sala; chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Neil Chatterjee, and more.

Crafting the Planet is a virtual Earth Day conference organized by the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The conference will explore the convergence of traditional conservation and restoration of the planet, and ecological innovations taking place in areas such as genetics and engineering. The program includes pre-recorded and live sessions. April 20, 8:30am-8:30pm CST. Registration is free.

Here’s a poem that was sent to me by Sharonite and former library trustee Paula Duprat. Today seems the perfect day to post it.

The Peace of Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Don’t forget, you are a part of the earth, too. Taking care of the earth is taking care of yourself. Happy Earth Day, everyone.

Stay well,