- Most Earth Day events this year will be online because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
- On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, 20 million people came out onto the streets across the U.S.
- Now, climate change has become one of the central issues of the environmental movement.
Our planet’s very own holiday is coming later this week.
And in a year in which a deadly pandemic has had the globe in its grip and climate change helped spark a cascade of calamities from raging wildfires to a ferocious hurricane season, the focus of this year’s Earth Day couldn’t be more timely.
“At the heart of Earth Day’s 2021 theme, Restore Our Earth, is optimism, a critically needed sentiment in a world ravaged by both climate change and the pandemic,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of EarthDay.org.
The theme of “Restore Our Earth” focuses on restoring the world’s ecosystems through natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking. “This year, we are also supporting local communities and areas that are disproportionately affected by environmental issues,” according to EarthDay.org.
Earth Day, which takes place each year on April 22, is the most-widely observed secular holiday across the globe. It’s an event “celebrated around the world when people take time to appreciate humankind’s connection to the Earth and to raise awareness of our environmental challenges,” according to the Earth Day Initiative. a New York City-based non-profit group.
John Oppermann, executive director of the Earth Day Initiative, said that “with each passing day, the urgency for climate action grows, and we are running out of time. This is a pivotal year for our global community to acknowledge and respect the science of climate and COVID.”
Like last year, most Earth Day events this year will be online because of the pandemic.
“Most of our Earth Day events will be virtual with the exception of individual and small group cleanups through our ‘Great Global Cleanup’ program,” said Olivia Altman of EarthDay.org, formerly the Earth Day Network.
Despite the pandemic, “there’s lots of excitement around this Earth Day,” Rogers told USA TODAY. Overall, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries participate in each Earth Day “to build environmental democracy and advocate for sustainability,” according to EarthDay.org.
“Last year, we were able to reach millions through our digital Earth Day Live event,” Altman said. “This year, with our second-annual Earth Day Live virtual event, we believe we can grow even further.”
The global show begins at noon ET on Thursday and will run parallel to the Biden administration’s global climate summit, also set for Earth Day.
“Our four-hour event will be action-packed,” she promised. “Our panels, workshops, films and performances, will include world climate leaders, activists, educators, musicians, influencers and more.”
Earth Day turns 51 this year. On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, 20 million people came out onto the streets across the U.S., an event that to this day remains the largest civic event in human history, according to Rogers.
The decade that followed saw some of America’s most popular and powerful environmental legislation, EarthDay.org says, including updates to the Clear Air Act and creation of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Now, climate change has become one of the central issues of the environmental movement, and climate and environmental literacy is key to that, Rogers said.
“Combined with civic education, climate and environmental literacy will create jobs, build a green consumer market and allow citizens to engage with their governments in a meaningful way to solve climate change,” Rogers said. “EarthDay.org believes every school in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component.”