Earth Day Turns 50
22 April 2020
Fifty years ago today, Denis Hayes, a 25-year-old graduate student, organized the first celebration of Earth Day, during which tens of millions of people took to the streets in New York, Washington, D.C. and other cities to demonstrate their support for increased environmental protections. The day’s events helped generate broad support for environmental protection legislation worldwide and spawned the modern Earth Day Network, which coordinates events in nearly 200 countries.
Earth Day in 2020 marks another beginning: this will be the first year that Earth Day, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, will be an entirely digital celebration. The European Geosciences Union (EGU) has likewise moved our annual meeting, the General Assembly, online for what will be the largest-ever virtual geoscience meeting from 4–8 May.
“EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online will be a direct demonstration not only of what is possible, but also what may need to become a norm in terms of reducing the impacts of scientific research and discourse on the environment,” says Susanne Buiter, EGU’s Programme Committee Chair. “I hope scientists and other interested people from all around the world will take advantage of the free, open-access events to learn about the latest geoscience research results being presented.”
The online events will include ten live-streamed keynote symposia and debates as well as a programme packed with more than 700 scientific sessions featuring nearly 18,000 abstracts, many devoted to understanding, and communicating about, environmental change. Examples include Tipping Points in the Earth System; From the Source to the Sea – River-Sea Systems under Global Change; Amazon forest – a natural laboratory of global significance; and Communicating A Global Climate Crisis: If our house is on fire, why haven’t we called the fire brigade…?
The research presented during the meeting will also offer an opportunity to gain some perspective, particularly regarding how Earth’s systems are changing. “An important component of geoscience research is understanding how our planet’s major systems — the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere — have varied over time,” says EGU President Alberto Montanari. “The 50th anniversary of Earth Day gives scientists, decision makers and the public a chance to reflect on what has changed in terms of environmental regulation, as well as what the results of these changes have been.”
Ultimately, say both Buiter and Montanari, Earth Day is all about connecting with others — be it digitally or in person. “It is only by working together that humanity will be able to continue to make the massive changes that are needed to combat the global climate crisis,” says Buiter.
In addition to marking an important milestone, Earth Day’s golden anniversary is an occasion to look forward to what the global society can accomplish in the next half century. “Earth Day has shown us how everyone — from nations, to communities, to individuals, is capable of working together,” says Montanari.
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day marks an historic moment in the history of our global society, adds Montanari. “Now more than ever, we need to encourage this collaborative and cooperative spirit and promote new ways to share scientific ideas and innovations to continue to make our Earth a better place for everyone.”
The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is the leading organisation for Earth, planetary and space science research in Europe. With our partner organisations worldwide, we foster fundamental geoscience research, alongside applied research that addresses key societal and environmental challenges. Our vision is to realise a sustainable and just future for humanity and for the planet. We publish a number of diverse scientific journals, which use an innovative open access format, and organise topical meetings, and education and outreach activities. Follow the EGU on Twitter and Facebook.