On April 22, 2020 we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, as well as a movement to take Earth Day to a place it has never been before: online.

While in-person events have been canceled in light of COVID-19, that does not mean that Earth Day is canceled! There are many ways to celebrate conservation and sustainability without breaking social distancing rules. 

Consider partaking in one or all of the following activities throughout April to celebrate this worldwide event that began right here in Wisconsin, and keep reading to learn more about the history of Earth Day!

1. Participate Virtually

Many organizations and schools are moving their in-person events online in lieu of cancelingTune into a class, presentation, or conference virtually to learn more on an array of topics.  

2. Download the Earth Challenge 2020 App 

Earth Day Network is launching a smartphone app available on Apple and Android as part of the Earth Challenge for 2020. The app allows you to gather and report important scientific data as part of the world’s largest citizen science effort.

3. Participate in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon 

Photo by Michelle Milford via Flickr.

The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is the largest fundraiser for bird conservation in Wisconsin! This year’s Birdathon will run from April 15 until October 15, with changes that ensure our participants are following best practices recommended by the CDC. Funds raised support priority bird conservation projects throughout the state. Learn more about our alternative ways to participate. 

4. Learn with Documentaries & Books 

Consider reading a book, watching a documentary, or enjoying a TEDx Talk to learn more about the Earth and steps you can take to live more sustainably! 

Photo by Michelle Milford via Flickr.

5. Participate in a Teach-in

Participate in the Earth Day teach-in put on by the Wisconsin Green Schools Network! Check out a series of lessons for learners of all ages to get outside and explore, learn, and play as Wisconsin celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

6. Make Art Outside

Many companies are offering discounted or free classes to help you learn during this time indoors.  Do you prefer digital art? Nikon has released free photography classes—the perfect way to practice your new skills is by photographing and exploring the outdoors! More of a pencil and paper artist? Tons of famous illustrators are offering free drawing, painting, and sketching classes online. Get outside and start drawing the world around you!

Photo by Chance Centeno.

7. Get Outside 

Whether you run, walk, bike, make art, bird, garden, or just relax—get outside! Social distancing isn’t exclusive to being indoors, and one of the best ways to celebrate the Earth is to be outside in the wonders of nature, which you can do right in your own backyard or neighborhood. Please note, as of April 10, 2020, many Wisconsin State Parks, Forests, and Recreational Areas will be closed. Please visit the Wisconsin DNR’s website for the most up-to-date information.

The History of Earth Day

Back in 1970, Gaylord Nelsonthen United States Senator for Wisconsincame up with the idea for a national day to focus on the environment. After witnessing the massive oil spill in California in 1969 and the power of the student anti-war movements across the country, Nelson was inspired to do something bigger about his environmental concerns.  
Hoping to sharpen public consciousness about air and water pollution and force environmental protection onto the national political agendaNelson announced the idea for a teach-in on the environment that would take place across the entire US. Working with several other influential leaders like Pete McCloskey and Denis Hayes, teams were built, events were planned, and April 22nd was selected as the date to celebrate.  
On that Wednesday of 1970, 10% of the American population, or 20 million Americans, participated in protests, cleanups, celebrations, and teaching events to promote sustainability and a healthy future for the environment. A new feat had been achieved as organizations previously fighting specific issues individually connected and unified on their shared values.  

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.  It was a gamble, Senator Gaylord recalled, but it worked.’” (Earth Day Network2020). 

Following the first celebration, new heights would be reached in 1990 when the movement went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and paving the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit.  It also prompted President Bill Clinton to award Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor given to civilians in the US—for his role as Earth Day founder. 
Photo by the Wisconsin DNR.
There is a multitude of ways to stay safe and healthy while celebrating the 50th Earth Day this April 22nd, 2020. How will you celebrate? 

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