April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, was a remarkably non-partisan affair that brought an estimated 20 million people out into the streets, parks, and beaches across the United States. In New York alone, Earth Day celebrations, rallies, and teach-ins shut down 5th Avenue and Union Square, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller used the occasion to create the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Fifty years later, Earth Day has become a massive global event, a combination of public rally and celebration, drawing attention to the still-urgent need to protect our natural world. Obviously, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed this year’s celebrations, and planned public events like New York City’s March for Science, and cleanup projects like a Riverkeeper sweep of the Hudson River from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks, have been postponed. But you can still participate online. Earth Day Network, the organization that grew out of that first Earth Day, hopes to activate one billion people around the world, with a whole host of digital programming and organizing focused on climate change and climate action
Earthday.org will issue 24 calls to action on April 22—one for every hour of the day—to rally for change and will host digital teach-ins with scientists, musicians, artists, public officials and others. NASA has created an Earth Day 2020 blog, highlighting the planet’s interconnected systems and emphasizing citizen action. Voter education and registration will also form a significant part of the celebrations this year, since major elections will occur in over 60 nations in 2020. Here’s a list of organizations and resources where you can support Earth Day while staying socially distanced.
Also just in time for Earth Day 50: New-York Historical Society has partnered with NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to offer a beautiful—and free!—way to celebrate: an 8-piece educational poster series inspired by our online exhibition Hudson Rising that focuses on 200 years of environmental thinking, art, and action along the Hudson River. Request the posters for the educators and environmentalists in your life! To receive your free digital poster files, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. See a sample graphic below:
Top image: A photo of the Earth taken from Apollo 8 in 1968 (NASA/Bill Anders)
Written by Bekah Friedman, Project Historian for Hudson Rising