Going Digital to Celebrate the 50th Earth Day

The onslaught of COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every facet of life, but the world, including higher education, has moved toward more online engagement to function and ideally thrive. Earth Day, the annual celebration of our planet and its environmental preservation and growth, will still happen on April 22. And as Earth Day celebrates its 50-year anniversary, the world is finding new ways to virtually celebrate and plan for the future.

Earth Day Network, Earth Day’s official organizer, put out a press release announcing this year’s initiatives and events would all be online with the first Digital Earth Day. “Whether it be coronavirus or our global climate crisis, we cannot shut down,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “Instead, we must shift our energies and efforts to new ways to mobilize the world to action.”

Related events focused on climate change and science are also going online. Inside Higher Ed describes how in-person demonstrations such as the March for Science in New York City have adapted by organizing virtual events. In the March for Science’s case, they will host a livestream and online expo to help launch their Earth Day 50 Virtual Kickoff. Local events such as Earth Day Omaha and Central Florida Earth Day will also host virtual alternatives to their previously physical proceedings.

Publications such as National Geographic are utilizing technology to promote sustainability and climate change action in connection with Earth Day. Nat Geo uses augmented reality for their new cover story to show users what the world will look and feel like in 12 global cities 50 years from now. 

For Earth Day resources for higher education, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has shared a “Online Engagement Opportunities for Earth Day and Beyond” guide. Included are the Earth Day Ecochallenge, the Turning Green Classroom initiative, the aforementioned EarthRise Digital Earth Day, and a 24-hour webinar on happiness and sustainability around the Earth hosted by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the online community Sunrise School.

The guide also includes the “Solve Climate by 2030” virtual teach-ins on climate solutions and justice that took place on April 7. Organized by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, the event consisted of dozens of university-hosted webinars about local action that could positively impact climate change efforts. Among the participating universities were the University of South Florida, Rice University, Ohio State University, the University of California–Berkeley, Kansas State University, Auburn University, and many others.

Earth Day also has its Green Campus Network, a collection of universities committed to sustainability and green policies. Among those Green Campus partners are the University of Illinois–Chicago, the University of Pittsburgh, East Tennessee State University, Kennesaw State University, and others.

Despite limitations, it’s clear higher education and much of the world continue to commit to celebrating Earth Day. For more Earth Day information, head to the Earth Day website. Also, visit your local university or city websites to see how your community is virtually celebrating Earth Day this year.


  • Steve Chaplin

    Steve Chaplin is managing editor of ACUI’s The Bulletin and manager of the ACUI College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) Evaluation Program. A former newspaper writer, editor, and manager, he has volunteered as a student mentor as a member of the National Association of Science Writers, and received awards for his writing and reporting from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, and the Kentucky Press Association.

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