April 22 marked the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, a day where millions of people join together to flood the world with hope, optimism and action. Typically, Earth Day consists of marches, clean-ups and petitions; however, this year, it looked a little different.

Prompted by the Santa Barbara oil spill, the first Earth Day was held in 1970. 20 million Americans took to the streets to protest ignorance of environmental issues and demanded a new way forward for the planet. It has since grown to become a global environmental movement, in which more than a billion people participate, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Earth Day took a slightly different form this year, with Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, advising that we should be “using our voices to drive action online rather than in person”. Therefore, this year, we saw the introduction of our first ever Digital Earth Day, themed around climate action.

Throughout the 24 hours of April 22, a new call to action was issued every hour; for example, participants were asked to document their air quality with the EC2020 app, make their next meal plant-based, and add their voice to The Campus Climate Project map.

An initiative called ‘Earth Day Live’, a video stream hosted by actor Ed Begley Jr. and his daughter, Hayden Carson Begley, ran for twelve hours; this featured interviews, panels, teach-ins, performances, and opportunities for digital collective action. Content included a ‘Climate Action Goes Global’ event, vegan cooking tips, meditation, and even a global ‘Concert for a Healthy Planet’ from American Composer, Music Producer, and Environmentalist, Ricky Kej.

Earth Day Network also released a social media toolkit, encouraging participants to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtags: #EarthDay2020 #EARTHRISE.

So, what can we continue to do from home now that Earth Day has passed? Programmes such as ‘Adopt a Coral’ offer the chance to support conservation projects that work to protect vulnerable wildlife. Take a look at the augmented reality filter that National Geographic have created for their April issue, which gives a cautionary look at the effects of climate change 50 years from now. Or, check out the 24 calls for action on the Earth Day website for inspiration. And most simply, but perhaps most importantly, join the movement at earthday.org, looking ahead to Earth Day 2021. 


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