How to Celebrate Earth Day From Your Couch
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Lockdown can’t stop you from loving the Earth.
By Fiona Zublin
The best-laid plans and planets often go awry.
For Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, a massive, planet-wide cleanup, in the works for years, was scheduled to take place. But with a fifth of the world’s population under some kind of coronavirus lockdown, that clearly wasn’t going to work.
Headlines have been snatched away from Earth Day before. On the 30th Earth Day, in 2000, Elián Gonzáles, the 5-year-old Cuban refugee who had been found clinging to an inner tube a few miles off the coast of Florida, was taken by federal authorities in a highly publicized raid. But nothing like the coronavirus has happened on such a global scale before.
Still, says Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers, it’s not like Earth Day is canceled. In fact, a lot of what was planned for the day is online.
Earth Day 2020 is about turning every person into not only an environmentalist but also a citizen scientist. The app Earth Challenge 2020 allows you to do just that. (Heads-up: There’s an app called Earth Challenge, which is a geography game; that’s not the one we’re talking about.)
What adults really need to do is take some kind of action. Things are slipping backward.
Kathleen Rogers, president, Earth Day Network
The deal with Earth Challenge is that in the future everyone is going to be a scientist, even if that just means helping collect data to be analyzed to learn more about our planet. Via the app, you can help track air pollution and the accumulation of plastic garbage by taking photos of the sky where you are or any street trash you see (artsy!). Once you upload the photos, the app will encourage you to take an Earth-aiding action tailored to your geographic location, like volunteering or signing a local petition. Soon, Rogers says, you’ll also be able to track pollinators via the app by taking photos of bees.
Lots of citizen science projects already exist, Rogers says, but they keep their data in Excel spreadsheets rather than in an easy-to-access open source platform. Another focus of Earth Challenge is to help local groups coordinate and aggregate the information they’re collecting. Making data from small community groups working on local projects available to everyone could increase its usefulness exponentially — and involve everyone in a kind of massive group science project: the project of existing together. Its aim is nothing less than to be the largest open-source citizen science database in existence.
There are other ways to celebrate. If you’re feeling like a fight, you can make a protest sign and join the online climate strike under the hashtag #DigitalStrike, much as teen activist Greta Thunberg has been. For parents with kids suddenly at home all the time, the Earth Day website has toolkits with worksheets and timelines that can be used to teach about environmentalism.
For those past the age of majority, Rogers is hoping to see greater involvement. “What adults really need to do is take some kind of action,” she says. “Things are slipping backward.” Those actions can be small, like making plant-based recipes, recycling or donating to environmental causes. The site also has a searchable world map of digital events like web conferences and art challenges. Oh, and that global cleanup we mentioned earlier? It hasn’t been canceled, just postponed, so be prepared to step in and shovel trash whenever we’re allowed outside en masse again.
If even that feels like too much work, there’s always … staring at a screen. Turner Classic Movies has announced that it will show five classic movies about the environment on Earth Day, including some 1930s shorts about the Great Depression (which, sorry to be a downer, might soon be relevant) and the 2006 Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth.