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OU, Athens celebrate 50th Earth Day virtually

With the majority of the world isolated at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 50th celebration of Earth Day will look very different compared to past celebrations.

Earth Day will take place on Wednesday, April 22. The holiday is an important opportunity for people to recognize both the impacts they’ve made on the planet and how people can make it a better place to live. 

Although the majority of the world may be celebrating Earth Day from their living rooms, both Ohio University and the city of Athens have not been deterred in their efforts to celebrate it. Instead, many activities have been modified so to be accessible online

Sam Crowl, the associate director at OU’s Office of Sustainability, explained the annual OHIO Earth Day celebrations have expanded significantly in previous years. This year, however, is OU’s first ever Virtual Earth Month, where OU is making sure to celebrate “Earth Day Every Day” by offering online content to connect with the Earth, such as webinars, a virtual sustainability film series, quizzes, OHIO Climate & Sustainability Ambassador how-to videos, book reviews, blogs and more.

“We only have one planet Earth, and understanding the importance of its protection is critically important to the health of not only the environment but also of society and the economy,” Crowl said in an email. “Through the celebration of Earth Day we can prioritize our understanding of these critical components of sustainability, whether we are able to gather in-person or online.”

OU’s Office of Sustainability will be announcing its 2020 Sustainability Award Winners on its Facebook page at noon on Earth Day, where members will recognize students that have made sustainable contributions to both the university and local community. 

Allison Shryock, a junior studying environmental studies and geography, explained that the Virtual Earth Month will have a special program targeting Arbor Day. Students will have the opportunity to visit locations on and off-campus and pick up free saplings from labeled boxes while following social distancing.

“The first Earth Day was celebrated 50 years ago and this year it will be celebrated very differently during a global pandemic,” Shryock, who is also the social media and marketing coordinator at OU’s Office of Sustainability, said in an email. “It is a time where people can come together virtually to celebrate the Earth and to promote environmental education and awareness. Webinars, citizen science initiatives and other activities are great ways to learn more about the environment. Any individual has the ability to inspire awareness and appreciation of the Earth and our environment.”

Although the significantly lower global emissions may be a positive result of the coronavirus’ impacts, emissions will quickly shoot back up as people get back to work. That’s why it’s important to recognize Earth Day nonetheless. 

Jordan Knisely, a junior studying environmental studies, explained that the overall effect of the coronavirus is incredibly negative environmentally because things such as climate conferences are being canceled and scientists are unable to conduct important research.

“It’s always good to bring more attention to environmental issues and the ability individuals have to make a difference, whether that’s through changing our habits, exercising our right to vote or whatever else,” Knisely said in an email. “Given the long term negative impact COVID-19 is probably going to have on the fight against climate change, I think Earth Day is more important now than ever to make sure we don’t get completely distracted from environmental issues, even if it is just a virtual celebration. We can’t let this health crisis make us forget that there’s a larger environmental crisis on the horizon that we have the power to mitigate.”

To participate in Virtual Earth Day, individuals can visit the Athens, Ohio Earth Day website, follow the OU Office of Sustainability on social media @OHIOsustainable and use the hashtag #OHIOEarthDay.


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