Re-evaluating Earth Day

Earth Day sprung into being at a time when not many government officials were focused on protecting the environment. Fifty years down the line, it’s succeeded in mobilising and uniting colossal groups of people to act today for a cleaner, greener tomorrow.This article examines Earth Day’s accomplishments to date,as well as the future of the 2020 event following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every Earth Day, 1 billion people from over 190 countries raise awareness about climate change and the need for a cleaner environment [1]. It’s truly an inspiration and a cause for hope that so many of us, year after year, are willing to dedicate time and energy to build a better future for our descendants.The Earth Day Network has undoubtedly played an irreplaceable role in climate change education. In 2000, Dennis Hayes, organizer of the first Earth Day,organized events focused on global warming and clean energy [2]. In 2010, Earth Day launched an initiative to plant 1 billion trees, a target completed by 2012 [2].

However, leaders within the organization agree that there is still a long way to go.As Kathleen Rogers, the president of Earth Day Network said, “Progress has slowed, climate change impacts grow, and our adversaries have become better financed ” [3]. With countries like the United States pulling out of the 2016 Paris Agreement and rolling back fuel emission standards for vehicles [4], the need for an Earth Day that called for “action at all levels of government,\” as Dennis Hayes had mentioned, [3] was extremely evident. What Hayes envisioned was a “global Green New Deal”, an Earth Day that would send out a clear message that “we have run out of time to dawdle ”[4]

Unfortunately, as with various other events, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in the works.Earth Day 2020 is now scheduled as an online streamed event on April 22nd. Hayes admits that “in terms of political impact, there is simply no substitute for a billion people in the street” [4].

But let’s take a look at the theme of Earth Day 2020 once more: climate action [3].It’s time to stop talking and start cleaning up our act.If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that our continued existence on this planet cannot be taken for granted. As Hayes points out, the pandemic has shown us other ways to positively impact our environment:from the benefits of working at home to cooking our own food and not burning away energy to fuel large social gatherings [4]. Most of all, Hayes says, it has reminded us that some situations, like climate change, we “need to confront as Homo Sapiens” [4].

Yes, we couldn’t take Earth Day 2020 out onto the streets. But we still have the rest of 2020 left,to do all those little activities that contribute so much-walking to work,planting trees and spreading the word.By making this Earth Day about decisive action on the part of the public as well as the government, we may just realize Hayes’ dream of Earth Day 2020 as a turning point in the history of the event.


[1]:The History of Earth Day.Accessed April 18th, 2020 through 

[2]:Alina Bradford: ‘Earth Day:Facts and History.’ Published April 18th, 2017.Accessed April 18th 2020 through . 

[3]:Earth Day 2020.Accessed April 19th 2020 through 

[4]:Evelyn Nieves: ‘Q&A:Dennis Hayes, Planner of the First Earth Day, Discusses the ‘Virtual’ 50th’.Published  April 17th,2020. Accessed April 19th 2020, through

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