Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — 10% of the U.S. population at the time — took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest damage to the environment and to demand a new way forward for our planet. I was a junior in high school and wrote about those first mass rallies.
That first Earth Day launched a wave of action in the United States, including the passage of The Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day when the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed into force.
Over the course of the last 50 years, this time in April has normally involved gathering together in cities across the world to demand climate action with a series of marches, rallies, actions, and trainings. In my community, there’s usually a beach clean-up and a “Procession of the Species.” This year, however, is anything but normal.
Due to the need for personal distancing this year, youth and adult activists from 400 organizations are coming together for Earth Day Live, led by the Youth Strike Coalition that organized last fall’s Climate Strikes. Earth Day Live, while online, is being organized the same way — as a youth-led movement built around collaboration that is intergenerational and intersectional. The three-day live stream focused on climate action will include training sessions, performances, and appearances to keep people engaged, informed, and inspired. Speakers include celebrities, politicians, scientists, and youth activists.
Here’s an overview of what’s happening each day:
• April 22 — STRIKE: The 50th anniversary of Earth Day is about demonstrating collective power in the face of today’s multiple crises. There will be performances, conversations, trainings, and more.
• April 23 — DIVEST: The world’s largest banks have pumped $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement. Led by the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition, April 23rd focuses on the role of money in driving the climate crisis.
• April 24 — VOTE: The US Youth Strike Coalition, April 24th will focus on voter registration and feature a digital, relational voter registration challenge to see which region of the country can register the most voters.
The 2020 We Don’t Have Time Climate Conference is joining with Earth Day Network and Exponential Roadmap for Earth Day Week, April 20–25, 2020. This public, free, online, no-fly climate conference will broadcast live talks and other daily shows from Washington DC and Stockholm with speakers, thinkers and doers from all over the world.
Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean collective disengagement. We may be apart due to COVID-19, but through the power of digital media, we’re also more connected than ever. And that connection just might save the planet.