Celebrations go digital on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day

Environment

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and this year’s theme is “Climate Action.”

To celebrate Earth Day this year, there are plenty of virtual or tangible things you can still do from home.

In Rhode Island, members of the Sunrise Movement and other local activists will gather for a virtual rally to call on the General Assembly to reconvene. Activists say they want to address demands related to criminal justice, housing, and workers’ rights that have emerged during the pandemic.

“Rhode Island needs long-term protections for housing, homeowners and renters because the effects of this crisis will last long after the health aspect of it is over with,” Mycala McKay of Sunrise Providence said.

McKay also says activists are calling for a $15 minimum wage and hazard pay for those putting their lives on the line during the pandemic.

McKay says throughout Earth Day, people will be hanging signs, banners and chalking sidewalks outside their homes to turn streets into mini protests surrounding the phrase “A Better World is Possible.”

McKay acknowledged this year’s virtual Earth Day will be much different than the first one in 1970.

“20 million people were in the street, and because of that protect we have the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air and Water Acts,” McKay said. “What we’re doing today is very much in the spirit of Earth Day.”

Mycala McKay, of Sunrise Providence, talks about how Earth Day has changed since the first protest in 1970.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Earth Day activities to go digital, there are also more visible changes.

Climate experts say people staying at home has had a positive impact on the environment, with cities like New York, Denver, and Los Angeles reporting better air quality.

Experts add that even you may have noticed things such as clearer water or increased animal sightings.

“That is so amazing that such a little change could have a positive impact on the environment,” McKay said. “But it shouldn’t take a health crisis and hundreds of thousands of people dying for us to make that change, and that those changes could come very easily if we were to enact legislative change.”

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