By Julia Pepler

Today, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. This will be one that we remember for years to come. Instead of celebrating together, in parks, in forests, or down by the water, most of us will be celebrating from our homes and neighbourhoods. But nonetheless, we will find ways to celebrate this incredible planet we call home.

Students march at the first ever Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Image: Sierra Club

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought grief and despair to so many of us. But sprinkled between difficult news stories and updates, there have been glimmers of hope. Our streets, airports, shopping malls, and waters have gone quiet. And for the first time, in decades, the natural world has been given a much deserved break.

In Nara, Japan, sika deer have been sighted “nosing their way around deserted metro stations”. In Lima, Peru, pelicans and gulls have taken back once crowded beaches. In Oakland, USA, flocks of wild turkeys have been running through the streets. Even here in BC, orcas have been spotted in Indian Arm near Metro Vancouver.

Image: Mark Rasmussen/Twitter


This Earth Day, clear skies and wild animals roaming our urban centres have given many of us a wake-up call. We may be celebrating separated from each other, but there are endless ways to give thanks and take time to connect with our precious planet. Now is the time, in which most of the world is experiencing some version of isolation, that people realize how much they miss nature and the outdoors. This is an important lesson, that when this pandemic is over we need to be more mindful of our environment as we can't afford to continue on as "business as usual."

Here are just a few ways you might be able to celebrate Earth Day this year (while respecting social distancing measures, of course):

  1. Do a beach or park clean-up. Bring gloves and a bag or bucket.
  2. Turn off electronics and lights for an hour, play boardgames or enjoy a meal with your family by candlelight.
  3. Go for a walk, bike, or run and connect with the natural spaces near your home.
  4. Find a quiet place to appreciate nature, from your home, a park, or by the water, and breathe, meditate, read, or journal.
  5. Set goals for yourself on how to reduce your footprint over the next year.
  6. Write about a waterbody that you are connected with and share it with the Watermark Project.
  7. Share your nature photos documenting pollution, wildlife, and recreational water use to train our AI monster, Gassy to identify the images that citizen scientist collect and submit.
  8. Consider supporting local environmental non-profits and organizations that work tirelessly for conservation and restoration efforts and that may be feeling the effects of this pandemic.

Though we are physically apart from each other today, we’d love to hear what you are doing to celebrate Earth Day alone, with your family, or roommates. Share your ideas, photos, and experiences with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Cherry blossoms in Vancouver. Image: Sadie Caron

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