As it celebrates 50 years, April 22 Earth Day still has value in the midst of coronavirus pandemic

Art illustrated by Accolade assistant graphics editor Karen Lee

Since its first celebration in 1970, Earth Day has become a cherished event for environmental activists and tree-huggers alike. But with its 50th anniversary today on April 22, those stuck at home because of COVID-19-related government orders should still honor the occasion by trying out the many online activities Earth Day’s website offers. 

Throughout its half a century of charity work and advocacy for global conservation, this event has had a widespread cultural influence on humans’ relationships with their natural habitat and the ways they interact with it. 

Despite having a vast impact on society’s outlook of the world, Earth Day’s spirit may dwindle as a result of the recent coronavirus outbreak. Although celebrating outdoors is not a viable option because of social distancing requirements and laws preventing large public gatherings, we can still keep this celebration active and relevant to not only celebrate its recurrence but also spread a message of positivity in this time of darkness.

Around 2,000 Earth Day celebrations worldwide are subject to change as almost every government in the world has put its cities on lockdown. With these places under strict containment, all of these events will most likely not take place outside. However, it is still possible to celebrate indoors and even online. 

Taking action during this annual celebration through the use of social media is a way to get involved in the festivities. In fact, using an online platform is the most efficient and effective way to get a message across to a wide range of people.

On Earth Day, a movement called, “24 Hours of Action,” will commence through social media. Anyone who wants to participate can spread awareness through posting pictures, tweeting or holding digital discussions about the planet.

Using platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook can amplify the voice of a certain environmental cause that needs attention. Promoting an eco-friendly charity, advocating for the conservation of wildlife or even warning others about the dangers of climate are just some of the many things that these social media posts can be centered on. Even hosting conversations about how to help endangered animal species or preventing ocean pollution can further people’s awareness of these topics.

For minors, it is not too early to get involved. Advocating for the well-being of the planet  on social media can encourage the interests of people wanting to preserve the Earth’s naturally occurring wonders.

A way of raising awareness would be reaching out to politicians in favor of preserving natural wildlife through Twitter or Instagram. Respectfully expressing one’s opinions about certain environmental policies not only grabs the attention of these leaders, but also informs them on their supporters’ concerns.

Furthermore, this year’s theme for Earth Day is “climate action,” so raising awareness for the 2015 Paris Agreement is crucial as all the nations involved will be expected to strengthen their commitments to the Agreement by the end of 2020. This consensus was created within the U.N. to reduce the detrimental effects of greenhouse gases. 

Last year’s demonstrations, known as “climate strikes,” can be repeated again this year but don’t always have to include large crowds of people congregated on one street corner. Protesting online is a great way to take advantage of the internet’s ability to reach out to others and spread a common message.

Shouting with strangers and lifting handmade signs in the middle of busy streets is guaranteed to receive a lot of attention and news coverage. But that does not mean the power of the internet is not as effective. The latest trends and controversies on social media spread like wildfire. If we stir up the conversations on climate protection laws and the devastating effects of carbon emissions, these pictures, captions, tweets and videos can reach major news outlets and influential celebrities who care about these issues.

Today on April 22, Earth Day Live 2020 will commence with musicians, artists, politicians and leaders ready to share performances and messages directly from their website (earthday.org). By using interactive methods of communication, discussions for change will be accessible to a wide range of people no matter what part of the world they reside in. 

The organization also has actor Zac Efron (“High School Musical”), Costa Rican diplomat Christina Figueres and Indian environmental activist Licypriya Kangujam on their Global Advisory Committee to speak at the event. Having influential people on this list not only promotes it, but also encourages their followers to engage in the festivities. Additionally, involving marine biologists Dr. Sylvia Earle and Paul Nicklen to discuss their expertise on climate change is a great way to provide credible information on these topics. 

Having these solutions online minimizes the concerns surrounding the safety of the Earth during this time. This way, readers have practical options to maintain eco-friendly sustainability while social distancing. It also shows people that having a green thumb isn’t always necessary to make an impact on the Earth. This can be accomplished through simple acts such as composting biodegradable waste or reducing screen time on technological devices.

The site should include suggestions from other users as a way to deepen the conversation and make it inclusive to anyone willing to partake in it. Adding features to the site in which people can vote or write about environmental matters would prompt more discussions involving public opinion on these issues.

The Earth Day Organization has also taken initiative to create an app called “Earth Challenge 2020,” which allows users to collect the latest environmental data. Through pictures and locations listed on the app, users can see when and where pollution should not occur in their area. Though currently a work in progress, the development of this app will eventually become a major source for data for science initiatives. But for now, anyone using it can report changes in air quality or signs of plastic pollution to contribute to the data that the app developers are still trying to gather.

With the extra free time that comes with isolation, people can use it to make their own household products that they would usually purchase from the store. Goods such as deodorant, toothpaste or even laundry detergent can be re-created at home. 

With the rise in popularity of zero-waste living, many bloggers have created recipes for these items online so they are easily accessible. This lifestyle encourages practices such as composting or buying reusable products to minimize the amount of trash accumulated in landfills. By creating these products instead of buying them, the risk of being exposed to the virus is lowered. It also decreases the amount of packaging waste being thrown into dumps.

Earth Day’s impact on the United States alone for the past 50 years has made significant changes to the country’s participation in environmental conservation, resulting in long-lasting effects for the current generation. 

Despite the distress self-isolation has brought onto many people around the world, it has positively affected the environment by reducing major producers of carbon emissions. Because less people are commuting to public places, driving and plane travel has decreased significantly over these past couple of months.

The unfortunate spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a massive toll on the plans for the future of many individuals. The effects of this virus have caused a massive spike in unemployment rates as well as the deaths of over 100,000 innocent lives worldwide. And as frustrating as it is, we must respect that everyone is extremely susceptible to catching COVID-19 and spreading it. 

Even in the midst of this global pandemic, we have an obligation to look after the planet in addition to taking care of those who are ill. Humans will eventually endure this virus and over time will develop an immunity to it. However, if we continue to pillage our natural resources and recklessly harm the Earth through manmade innovations, the damage can’t be undone. 

The environment may seem like the least of our worries during this time, but it is now more imperative than ever to look after Mother Nature. Given the substantial amount of resources the Earth gives to us, it’s time we give back before the effects of human consumption on this planet become irreversible.

With the use of modern technology, we can take matters into our own hands and gain control of this situation. Through online advocacy and self-education, we are not only keeping the spirit of Earth Day alive, but we are also bringing light and positivity to a dark and confusing time.

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