I remember staring at the original Earth Day poster above my brother Jerry’s desk. My small-town, Kansan, seven-year-old brain was mystified. Why set aside a day to protect the earth? The earth as I knew it was filled with turtles and thunderstorms and babbling Colorado streams. Jerry was an early activist and already knew there were cities with rivers on fire and pollution run amok that was devastating our planet. Closer to home, our mother was a rabid trash collector, and we knew there’d be hell to pay if we ever tossed anything out the car window.
Since we can’t gather to raise our collective voice to care for our planet and, crucially, to continue sounding the alarm about climate change, the marking of the 50th Earth Day today will necessarily be different. You could remind yourself of the rich history of the genesis of Earth Day, or try out some of the environmental activities Keep Durham Beautiful has created for April in their virtual “Earth Month.” Join Smithsonian’s four-day Earth Optimism 2020 Digital Summit. Or simply curl up with the soothing words of Margaret Renkl as she peruses her seed catalogues and field guides, for “field guides, with their glossy photos of weedy wildflowers, offer a promise: Spring is coming.”
I admit to finding myself easily overwhelmed by all I have to learn, all the possibilities to create and act and protest in support of our world, on Earth Day and all other days. It works better for me to drill down and remember the heroes: our own environmental artist Bryant Holsenbeck, whose beautiful book The Last Straw details her adventures living for a year without plastic; the 5th annual Grist 50, with profiles of emerging leaders “cooking up the boldest, most innovative solutions to save this here planet;” and my own 87 year-old mother, who continues, even in a pandemic, to pick up trash at her retirement community.