Earth Day: Roots of Change
It may be hard to believe, but before 1970, it was completely legal for power plants and factories in the U.S. to pollute the environment by dumping tons of highly toxic waste into streams and releasing clouds of harmful smoke into the air.
Seeking to protect the planet, Gaylord Nelson, a young senator from Wisconsin, created the first Earth Day to call attention to these critical issues. On April 22, 1970 (a date that let most students participate because it fell between spring break and final exams) over 20 million people across America publicly protested to support Nelson’s plan—and it worked! This widespread action prompted Congress to create new environmental legislation and establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new federal agency charged with regulating and protecting the environment, was created.
This April 22nd marks the 51st Earth Day since the first one in 1970. In honor of this year’s Earth Day—and Earth Month—here are some activities you and your family can do to celebrate our planet.
Celebrating Earth Day Locally
Oakland is dedicated to becoming a more sustainable city where everyone can “pursue safe, happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, now and into the future.” Adopted in July 2020, Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan (ECAP) is the City’s 10-year proposal that outlines the work being done to decarbonize transportation and buildings, grow Oakland’s economy, and empower local communities.
The 2030 ECAP has community resilience at its core: it promotes strategies such as increasing urban forests and green spaces, which can provide shade and cooler temperatures, help prevent urban flooding, and even reduce utility bill costs. Learn more about the City’s ECAP plan here.
This year, Oakland is celebrating Earth Day by holding a wide range of volunteer activities throughout the month of April. Families, individuals, and small groups are invited to clean up Oakland’s streets, waterways, and parks by removing trash, restoring habitats, and engaging in other neighborhood beautification projects. For more information, check out the City of Oakland’s Earth Month website.
What’s your Oakland Story?
From navigating public transportation to finding a good restaurant to eat at, maps play a huge role in our daily lives. But these drawings are more than just tools for representing our surroundings—they’re a powerful way to visualize our experiences and convey meaningful stories about our environment.
In honor of Earth Day, you can create your own personal map of Oakland that shows the people and places you care most about. Once you’re done, you can share your artwork with the Oakland Museum so it can be added to the growing Atlas of Oakland, which is part of the museum’s You Are Here: California Stories on the Map exhibition. Download the free template.
Eco-Reads for Bookworms
Love reading? Celebrate our planet by curling up with a great earth-themed book from Oakland’s library. You can celebrate Earth Day safely with a wide range of books and audiobooks—available free! Oakland’s library has a list of suggestions for adults.
Here are a few suggestions for younger readers:
The Tantrum that Saved the World, by Michael Mann & Meghan Herbert. This illustrated book tells the story about a little girl who channels her ‘tantrum power’ to create positive action for the planet!
The Earth Book, by Todd Parr. This whimsical illustrated book is chock-full of fun and easy ways to work together to protect our planet.
Bee & Me, by Alison Jay. This picturebook tells a tale of friendship and the importance of bees to preserving life on earth. You can watch a short animation featuring some of the artwork in the book, and read below to learn how to make your own bee hotel!
Earth Day for Movie Lovers
San Francisco’s Exploratorium has a wide range of environmental science-themed movies available online free, with topics ranging from penguins to ocean acidification to the Altamont Wind Farms and how energy is stored—and much more.
You can also check out the Saving San Francisco Bay Documentary here, as well as this Alameda County video about sustainable purchasing. And don’t miss these short documentaries about Oakland’s native trees and trails.
Reducing Food Waste
Want to save money while protecting the planet? Learn how to reduce food waste by doing a Fridge Reality Check using a handy step-by-step guide that shows how much food is going uneaten in your home’s fridge every week, and also provides useful tips and tools to save money by reducing wasted food at home. Be sure to check out this list of recipes and tricks to reduce food waste.
You can learn more about what goes where for home waste disposal in Oakland through this interactive game.
Welcome Backyard Buddies
Bee a great neighbor by building your own bee hotel—you and your family can celebrate the Earth and promote backyard biodiversity by inviting bees and other friendly critters to pollinate your garden or windowsill. Not only are you beautifying your backyard, but you are providing a shelter for native bees, who help cultivate our favorite fruits and vegetables. This is another great activity for people of all ages, and you can start planting your own bee garden with free seeds from Oakland’s Seed Lending Library.
Love seeing neighborhood critters? You can also become a citizen scientist and identify plants, bugs, and other backyard life with Seek iNaturalist—and add contribute real data on the many species in your neighborhood.
Virtual Visits to the Great Outdoors
With many national parks now offering virtual tours, you and your family can discover a range of natural wonders from your own home—and with a much lower carbon footprint. Nearly all of the United States’ 62 national parks offer the possibility to take a virtual tour, allowing you to explore Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and more.
Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado has a virtual tour that allows you to explore the park’s stunning landscape and soundscape, thanks to the online ‘sound library’ featuring sounds of the wildlife native to the park.
Take a virtual flight over an active volcano by visiting Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and explore the island’s volcanic cliffs and the Nahuku Lava Tube, a cave formed by cooled lava.
In the United Kingdom, several webcams have been set up in areas around the breathtaking Lake District. Why not take a virtual trip to explore some of England’s most beautiful scenery?
From curling up with a great new book or movie to mapping out and sharing what you love most about Oakland, there are many ways to celebrate Mother Earth. How are you celebrating?
From all of us at the EcoBlock team, we’re wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy Earth Day!
Cover image credit: Haixin Guo