This Wednesday, April 22, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
Prior to the onset of the current pandemic, people across the world were planning on taking to the streets to celebrate 50 years of environmentalism–and the urgency of the climate crisis.
Coronavirus has stymied these plans, but it hasn't stopped Earth Day's organizers from moving forward. If anything, the COVID-19 crisis has illuminated just why the world so desperately needs the reforms that many climate activists are calling for. Increased droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires could be disastrous for social distancing, particularly in lower-income and more vulnerable communities where the virus and climate change are already hitting the hardest.
"COVID is a real warning that when Mother Nature decides to act, we are pretty puny," says Gene Duvernoy, an organizer of Earth Day Northwest 2020.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a multitude of online events are taking over the Internet this week. One already happened on Sunday—a livestream that featured Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Bill Nye, Al Gore, Broadway performers (including the cast of Jagged Little Pill), NYC's attorney general Letitia Jones, and a multitude of climate scientists and activists. Running for eight hours, the stream was hosted by Earth Day 50, a nonprofit organization that was responsible for events like the March for Science NYC.
The livestream was dedicated to publicizing a series of three days of online climate activism that are happening this Wednesday (April 22), Thursday (April 23), and Friday (April 24).
If you're looking to take further action this week, you have a lot of options. Another massive 72-hour livestream will take place from April 22nd-24th, featuring Devandra Banhart, Jack Johnson, Jameela Jamil, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jane Fonda, Chelsea Handler, Cody Simpson, Joaquin Phoenix, Questlove, and many more. The event will be streamed from 9AM - 9PM at https://www.earthdaylive2020.org/ across the three days.
For more interactive fun, NASA has released a toolkit for families looking to celebrate Earth Day. The app Earth Challenge 2020 allows users to upload photos of their surroundings in order to develop global portrait of environmental destruction. Seattle University is also hosting a series of five-minute talks on Earth Day that celebrate environmental justice and activism, along with many other universities and organizations. If you're in NYC, earthweeknyc.com has a series of virtual toolkits that will allow you to share art, protest legislators, and call for a Green New Deal and environmental justice for everyone.
And all across the nation, organizations, schools, centers of worship and ordinary people are hosting their own local Earth Day celebrations and actions, many of which are as simple as posting a photo on social media and asking a friend to do the same. Earthday.org has a massive map of opportunities for anyone looking to get involved.
"Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly — in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person," said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.
If this feels disconnected from the pandemic at hand, it's important to remember that solving the COVID-19 crisis, climate change, and economic downturn could all involve similar solutions.
"Addressing climate change and environmental injustice will not diffuse efforts to address the virus and its economic fallout if we apply intersectional policies such as the Green New Deal," writes Rhiana Gunn-Wright in The New York Times. "They are designed to address connected issues in a way that protects the most vulnerable while building a more just and sustainable economy."
Climate reforms that support more vulnerable communities that are already direly affected by the COVID-19 crisis and supercharge the economy through investments in green energy could be the medicine we need, but it'll only happen if we all speak out.
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