Celebrate Earth Day’s 50th anniversary online

West Valley still able to be involved despite event cancellations


Wednesday, April 22, marks Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, and although coronavirus precautions have canceled at least one West Valley gathering event, residents can still mobilize online.

The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.

“Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide,” the mission at www.earthday.org states. “Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 75,000 partners in over 190 countries to drive positive action for our planet.”

Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea for a national day to focus on the environment after he, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969, the Earth Day official website notes. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Sen. Nelson realized that if he could infuse the energy of anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution, it would force environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans — at the time, 10 percent of the total population of the United States — took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment.

“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,” the website explains. “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 Act.  Two years later Congress passed the Clean Water Act. A year after that, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act.”

“It was a gamble,” Senator Gaylord recalled, “but it worked.”

Peoria residents can participate in the celebration by learning more about sustainable practices at www.peoriaaz.gov/sustainability.

Mesa-based Keep Nature Wild had scheduled a cleanup “at an area that desperately needs some love,” the group wrote on its online event listing, in Surprise at the intersection of Bell and El Mirage roads on a parcel of state-owned land on April 25. The cleanup was canceled to comply with CDC recommendations surrounding the coronavirus.

Keep Nature Wild usually hosts monthly cleanup events around the Valley to pick up trash.

The outdoor apparel brand pledges to pick up 1  pound of trash for every product purchased, and since 2016 has picked up more than 219,000 pounds of trash. Learn more at www.keepnaturewild.com.

Visit www.earthday.org/earth-day-2020/ to find a digital event in celebration of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary.

Check out Virtual Earth Day Arizona’s virtual event 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, April 22 hosted by Local First Arizona at Facebook Live. The event features a business climate action panel and a musical performance by Joey Burns of Calexico.