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News and Resources

Earth Day and Earth Week: Celebrating our Environment - April 12, 2015

    We are nearly half way through April and, despite a few cold days and nights, things are really starting to feel like spring. The birds are flying overhead, the fiddleheads of young ferns are pushing their way up to the sunlight, the days are getting warmer and it is a truly wonderful time to get outdoors and enjoy nature. One way to do that is to get out and participate in Earth week and Earth Day events happening across the Eastern shore, Maryland, the U.S. and the world.


    Just like every other year, Earth Day is April 22nd however this year it marks the 45th anniversary of the first Earth Day. Earth week celebrations, which vary depending on where you are or what organization you are participating with, can take place anywhere between April 15th-26th. 


    Since being made into a global event, the popularity of Earth Day has skyrocketed worldwide. This year, it is expected that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries will take action or participate in events on Earth Day, making it the largest environmental civic action in the world. This years Earth Day theme is, It's our turn to lead™, which is focused on bringing together millions of voices from around the world to help push global leaders to take action on climate change and the environment. This year's Earth Day is especially important because it allows the global community to show how important the environment and climate change is to us and provides a stepping stone to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where world leaders will meet to discuss and sign a global treaty on climate change. 


    This year's Earth Day and Earth week celebrations would not be possible without the hard work and dedication from thousands of individuals over the years, especially former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who helped create the first Earth Day event. 


    Originally, the idea for Earth Day came to Senator Nelson after witnessing the horrible aftermath of the massive 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, where nearly 90,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled into the waterway. Senator Nelson was horrified by the damage done to the local environment; the spill killed an estimated 3,500 sea birds as well as other marine animals and polluted the waterways for miles. Capitalizing on the burgeoning environmental movement, the start of which is primarily attributed to Rachel Carson's famous book Silent Spring and the outrage it created, Senator Nelson worked with his co-chair Congressman Pete McCloskey and national coordinator Denis Hayes to organize the first earth day event on April 22nd, 1970. Around 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and schools to protest and demonstrate their care for the environment, clean air and water, and each other. 


    Overall, the first Earth Day in 1970 was a huge success across the entire political spectrum; having participants who were Republican and Democratic, rich and poor, from rural communities to huge cities. The first Earth Day was so successful it also led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. 


    By 1990, Earth Day had become a major national event in the U.S. however environmental leaders wanted to make it even bigger. Led by Denis Hayes and the Earth Day Network, these leaders worked hard to spread the message of Earth Day and in 1990 we held the first global Earth Day, mobilizing nearly 200 million people in 141 countries. Earth Day 1990 was a stepping stone to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, just like Earth Day 2015 is a stepping stone to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Paris.  


    While Earth Day might not be seen as a big national holiday, there are still tons of different things you can do to help celebrate Earth Day and our environment. Many cities and communities have outdoor activities planned for Earth Day like planting trees, cultivating landscapes, cleaning up litter and debris, wildlife walks and much, much more. Some organizations hold large celebrations or events where people can learn about the local environment, what they can do to help and about the organizations in their area dedicated to helping the environment. 


    On Delmarva, there are a few celebrations and activities people can participate in for Earth Day and Earth week:

In Chestertown, they are holding an Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 18th, from 9 am to 1 pm at Memorial Row in Downtown Chestertown. At the festival there will be eco-friendly services and goods, family friendly activities, recycling and eco-friendly information, and exhibits from various local conservation and environmental organizations. 

The following weekend is the Salisbury Zoo Earth Day event on Saturday, April 25th, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Salisbury Zoo. The zoo will be open to visitors and will have environmental activities, games and demonstrations that will help raise awareness about the world we live in. Over 20 earth friendly exhibitors will also be at the zoo to help educate people about becoming environmental stewards and caretakers.

For more information on Earth Day or to check out other possible Earth Day events in your area, please visit the Earth Day Network website or more specifically, http://www.earthday.org/2015. 


Harrison Jackson is the Coastal Stewards Coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.



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