Happy Earth Day!

By DR. MIRIAM ACZEL

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.

Learn more about the first Earth Day in this video.

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.

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 here, and read below to learn how to make your own bee hotel!

Earth Day for Movie Lovers

Stream environmental-themed movies for free from Oakland’s Public Library. 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.

Gamify your Earth Day! 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 contribute real data on the many species in your neighborhood.

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 and natural wonders now offering virtual tours, you and your family can explore a wide range of diverse ecosystems 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, Alaska’s fjords, or the Grand Canyon among others.

Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming offers a virtual climb, which allows you to navigate your way to the the nearly 14000-ft summit and at the same time learn about the natural history and geography of the Grand Teton mountain range and its native flora and fauna.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado allows you to take a virtual tour that allows you to explore the stunning landscape and enjoy the park’s soundscape, thanks to the online ‘sound library’ featuring birdsong and the calls of other animals native to the park.

Take a virtual flight over an active volcano by visiting Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. You can enjoy a range of views from the island’s volcanic cliffs, and explore the Nahuku Lava Tube, a cave that was 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?

Love mountains? Enjoy a 360-degree tour of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, a famous geological landmark.

You can even explore Machu Picchu in Peru, from your own home! Air Pano offers a series of breathtaking interactive images, including from the top of Machu Picchu and the flora and fauna that call the mountain home.

From curling up with a new book or movie to taking a virtual trip to explore a national park or climbing to a mountain summit, there are many great ways to celebrate Mother Earth. How are you celebrating?

Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy Earth Day!

Editor’s note: this article originally appeared on the EcoBlock blog

Image credit: Haixin Guo

Dr. Miriam Aczel is Leaders in Energy’s Director of Communications. Miriam is a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute for Energy & Environment (CIEE) based at UC Berkeley, working on the Oakland Ecoblock project. She is also currently an Honorary Research Associate at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policywith a focus on international energy science and policy, with a focus on mitigation of environmental and health impacts of shale gas. Miriam earned her PhD at Imperial College London in 2020, where she was a President’s PhD Scholar.She is also co-founder and co-director of the Amir D. Aczel Foundation for Research and Education in Science and Mathematics, a nonprofit based in Cambodia. 

Miriam was born on Earth Day  

This post was originally published in Leaders in Energy


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