“Earth Day” has an incredible origin. This annual event was created when 20 million Americans took to the streets demanding environmental protection. The protests were organized on the heels of two major environmental catastrophes that rocked the nation in 1969 – the Santa Barbara oil spill and the Cuyahoga River fire. In addition to these environmental calamities, Americans were increasingly becoming concerned about pollution, loss of wilderness and wildlife, and rampant industrial development.
By the time spring rolled around in 1970, the American public and millions of university students were fed up with environmental degradation and decided to organize “Earth Day” protests on April 22. Millions gathered across the nation. That seminal day ushered in the ‘modern-day environmental movement’ and prompted decision-makers (both Republicans and Democrats) to institute the Environmental Protection Agency and establish bedrock environmental laws, such as the Clear Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.
Now, fast-forward to April 22, 2020, where people worldwide will be honoring the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. Last fall, environmental advocates coalesced together and agreed the theme for Earth Day would be climate change. The vision was to mobilize millions of people globally to attend demonstrations and strikes in order to raise awareness about climate change.
As Earth Day plans started to take shape, the COVID-19 pandemic began, requiring the world to shift gears. While events have been cancelled and we’re sheltering in place for the health and safety of our families and communities, we plan to virtually recognize Earth Day and continue to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change.
In recent years, Surfrider has ramped up our climate work. After studying climate science and watching climate change unfold before our eyes, Surfrider has been working to:
1. Raise awareness about climate change impacts to the ocean and coasts and how people can be part of the solution.
2. Mobilize our grassroots network to advocate for laws and policies that reduce greenhouse gases and help coastal communities adapt to climate change.
Surfrider’s work on climate change extends from local communities to the halls of Congress. For example, in 25 different localities across the country, we are directly working with decision-makers to develop sea level rise plans. We also literally work ‘on the ground’ by participating in dune restoration and ‘living shoreline’ projects to build resilient coastlines that can withstand rising seas. And we are teaching local communities how to plant Ocean Friendly Gardens that help trap greenhouse gases.
At the national level, we publish an annual “State of the Beach Report” where we provide recommendations to improve current coastal management practices and planning for sea level rise. In February 2020, Surfrider mobilized 150 coastal advocates to participate in 145 Senate and House meetings in Washington, D.C., and delivered thousands of signatures from citizens asking for climate action. Surfrider also participated in high-level meetings with White House officials and the Senate Democrats Committee on the Climate Crisis.
While we cannot celebrate Earth Day in person, we can still come together and urge decision-makers to take climate change action! Join Surfrider by signing our climate change action alert to Congress, AND participate in our virtual Earth Day photo campaign.
For Earth Day and the days leading up to it, we are asking YOU to post an image in your Instagram Story of a special place YOU want protected in the future. When you upload your image, search for “Surfrider Earth Day” and you can overlay an exclusive GIF onto your photo. Please post to your story and use the hashtag “#SurfriderEarthDay.” On Earth Day, we will post some of our favorite images to our social media channels!