Earth Day

50 Years of Earth Day

Introduction

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day strike. It is the world’s largest secular event, and over 1 billion people are thought to have participated in the event in 2019.[1] Here at YSJ, we will be marking the occasion through interviews with climate scientists and activists, as well as a series of articles written by our team.

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day takes place on April 22nd every year. It was started in 1970, when 20 million Americans took to the streets to protest against the government’s ignorance of climate issues.[2] The United Nations declared that they would join the annual celebration of Earth Day in 1971.[3] Over 190 countries now take place in this climate justice mobilization on a yearly basis.[4]

The Impact of Earth Day

Earth Day is often cited as the beginning of the modern climate movement. In the USA, Earth Day directly led to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency by President Nixon in December 1970. [5] Within the five years following the first Earth Day protest, the US Government also passed environmental legislation to protect pollution levels in air and water, and for the protection of marine mammals. [6]

Outside of the USA, the Earth Day Network has channelled their efforts into a large-scale afforestation scheme called “The Canopy Project”. The project aims to plant trees in areas that are most at risk from the effects of climate change, as well as areas that have experienced environmental disasters. During 2020, the Earth Day Network plans to plant 7.8 billion trees to celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary. [7]

The Earth Day Network is also dedicated to providing climate education to students across the planet. [8] To achieve this goal, the organisation has planned a global ‘teach-in’, allowing students and those willing to learn to be educated about the climate crisis and the impact of human and corporate actions on the environment. [9] Climate change disproportionately affects those from lower income backgrounds who may not have been gifted the chance to learn about the climate crisis. The Earth Day Network recognises the systematic difficulties people from these backgrounds face, and works to educate these groups. 

How Can I Get Involved?

The theme of this year’s Earth Day strike is Climate Action. [10] This is the first Earth Day that will take place entirely online, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Many youth climate strike groups, including Fridays for Future, are hosting their own digital action for Earth Day on a local and an international stage. The hashtag #EarthDayAtHome has been set up to allow people to share their Earth Day celebrations on social media. [11] Young people are encouraged to use social media for the greater good by posting a photo of themself with a strike sign online, using the opportunity to explain what environmental cause they are fighting for. [12]

Conclusion

The Earth Day movement has been the catalyst for genuine change globally. The movement has bettered the lives of many people on an international scale, from indigenious peoples to white-collar citizens. The outbreak of COVID-19 represents a new challenge for the movement, but the prevalence of the climate movement on social media is likely to help Earth Day continue to be a success in these unprecedented times.  

References

  1. “What Is Earth Day And How Do People Mark It Around The World?”, The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/earth-day-what-is-environment-campaign-sustainable-climate-change-paris-agreement-a8314891.html 
  2. “Earth Day 2020 | Earth Day”, Earth Day, https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/ 
  3. “The History And Importance Of Earth Day”, Liveabout, https://www.liveabout.com/the-history-of-earth-day-1203691 
  4. “The History Of Earth Day | Earth Day”, Earth Day, https://www.earthday.org/history/ 
  5. “How The Environment Has Changed Since The First Earth Day”, National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/04/earth-day-then-now-history-science-spd/ 
  6. “49 Years Of Environmental Victories, In Photos”, Nationalgeographic.com, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/09/environmental-victories-in-photos/ 
  7. “The Canopy Project | Earth Day”, Earth Day, https://www.earthday.org/campaign/the-canopy-project/ 
  8. “Environmental Education | Earth Day”, Earth Day, https://www.earthday.org/campaign/environmental-education/ 
  9. “Global Teach-In | Earth Day”, Earth Day, https://www.earthday.org/campaign/global-teach-in/ 
  10. “Earth Day 2020: Theme, Date, History & Events | Earth Reminder”, Earth Reminder, https://www.earthreminder.com/earth-day-2020/ 
  11. “#Earthdayathome With NASA”, NASA, https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2020/earthdayathome-with-nasa/ 
  12. “EARTHRISE: Earth Day Goes Digital | Earth Day”, Earth Day, https://www.earthday.org/coronavirus-drives-digital-striking-movement/ 

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