Groundswell of livestreaming events planned for Earth Day Wednesday
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Groundswell of livestreaming events planned for Earth Day Wednesday

During 50th annual Earth Day, environmental activists hope to get climate change back on the world’s coronavirus-dominated agenda as UN warns no time to lose

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Israeli activists and demonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest against inaction on climate change in Tel Aviv on September 27, 2019. (Ahmad Ghababli/AFP)
Israeli activists and demonstrators hold placards as they take part in a protest against inaction on climate change in Tel Aviv on September 27, 2019. (Ahmad Ghababli/AFP)

Environmental activists are hoping to get climate change back on the world’s coronavirus-dominated agenda, with a flurry of online events planned for the 50th annual Earth Day Wednesday.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions on movement, the massive civic event will be going online for the first time, hoping to flood the internet with global conversations, positive acts, performances, webinars and events supporting urgent action on climate change.

The United Nations Environment Program, noting that Earth Day 2020 is not just the 50th anniversary of Earth Day but also the anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement to take climate action, said, “the pandemic is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of humans and the planet in the face of global scale threats. Unchecked damage to our environment must be addressed.”

The first Earth Day took place in 1970. Outraged by oil spills, smog and polluted rivers, 20 million people took to the streets, protesting what they recognized as an environmental crisis. It was the planet’s largest civic event at the time and forced governments to take concrete actions, including passing environmental laws and establishing environmental agencies.

Some 7,000 demonstrators jammed a quadrangle at the Independence Mall in Philadelphia on the eve of Earth Day, April 22, 1970. (AP Photo)

“In addition to these practical outcomes, the event demonstrated just how much can be achieved when people come together and demand action,” the UN said.

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution formally recognizing the day as International Mother Earth Day. On Earth Day 2016, the UN formally adopted the Paris Agreement, articulating the commitment of nations to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels and to strengthen the ability of countries to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.

“April 22 is a timely reminder to embrace the opportunities of the natural world for green jobs, sustainable economic stimulus, for urgently taking action to protect ourselves against unsurvivable global heating and for securing healthy, dignified futures,” the UN statement said.

Every day, during the whole week, the online environmental news company, Ecowatch, will be publishing stories from Covering Climate Now, co-founded in April 2019 by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation, in association with The Guardian and now counting more than 400 news outlets with a combined audience approaching two billion people among its partners.

Other Earth Day resources, as provided by the AP news agency, include: Smithsonian Earth Summit,  Earth Day for Earthrise and Citizens Climate Lobby Virtual Earth Day.

In Israel Wednesday, online events include Earth Day 2020 from 9:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., bringing together the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center’s School for Sustainability, the Zalul Environmental Organization, Plastic Free Israel and Clean the Butts. This will be livestreamed on the Secret Tel Aviv Facebook page.

From 6 p.m., 11 other organizations, including Greenpeace, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Life and Environment, the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Greencourse and Extinction Rebellion, will be livestreaming their own event.

Individual groups are also running online events, among them Strike for the Future, a Trip Close to Home, Green Tel Aviv and the Tel Aviv University Astroclub.

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