On April 22, 2020, people across the world celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. This annual event provokes gratitude from some and action from others. However, there is no doubt that the beginning of Earth Day played a critical role in raising awareness about global environmental threats contributing to climate change.
The first Earth Day was an American protest that occurred in 1970, leading to improved environmental protections, like the Clean Air Act. Earth Day became a global event in the 1990s.
Over the last 20 years or so, youth climate movements have formed with the purpose of halting global warming and the processes/practices that contribute to it. Youth feel particularly close to the issue, as they are the ones who will have to bear the increasing effects of the warming planet. Youth are considered one of the many “frontline” communities that are already experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis. A popular mode of inspiring this sort of systematic change is climate striking. On Fridays, some students leave school to protest for climate reform.
Major global climate strikes, spearheaded by activists like Greta Thunberg, took place in early 2019. These international strikes popularized the global youth climate justice movement. For the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, there were plans for a large global climate strike, pushing for accountability and the lowering of carbon emissions. However, any plans for a large physical gathering were halted by the coronavirus, which sent much of the world into shutdown.
This shutdown has been an interesting topic for discussion among climate activists. Closures due to coronavirus have led to a decrease in the production of fossil fuels. Oil prices have plummeted. Los Angeles, among other cities, has seen massive improvements in air quality, though there is speculation that this is due to natural weather patterns. Many see this as a time to reconsider previous systems of functioning and consider new ways to produce sustainably, using renewable energy sources instead of coal and oil. Furthermore, there is concern that this temporary lull in fossil fuel production will lead to a surge when factories reopen.
Earth Day went online this year, with resources being published throughout the internet. Participants shared their personal experiences concerning living near oil drilling sites, and helped others get informed by, for example, explaining the context and demands of the Green New Deal. Earth Day rallies, like the one planned by Movement LA, a coalition of climate organizations, were held virtually. The distance between people did not silence their message: the change must begin now.
The Environmental Awareness and Climate Action Club here at New West had initially planned to have an Earth Day Rally, offering activities and information on understanding and solving the climate crisis. However, this rally has been postponed, likely until Earth Day 2021.