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Earth Day Through the Lens of Sheltering in Place

Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library on Unsplash

I can’t help but feel deeply sad that the 50th anniversary of Earth Day will be taking a back seat to the global coronavirus pandemic. Not just because the way we observe it will be physically constrained, but also because Earth deserves a lavish celebration by all her citizens. Typically we gather together in person to explore her gifts, sing her praises, help restore her health, and/or practice resistance against those actively doing her harm. Not so this year.

But humans are also resourceful, and scores of Earth’s loyalists will be finding ways to acknowledge and celebrate her on this milestone anniversary. We know it’s more important than ever to protect her, speak truth to power, and delight in her beauty and diversity.

Here are the ways some WEN Board of Directors members will be observing — and thinking about — Earth Day 2020 (and check out the links to more activities at the bottom).

–Paula Swiatkowski, WEN Communications Chair


Shahira Esmail

For the last 10 years I have kicked off Earth Month by participating in Earth Hour, an annual tradition which takes place on the last Saturday of March. People from around the world turn off their lights and electronics from 8:30-9:30 pm local time to help spread awareness about climate change and other environmental issues. While the impact may be minimal, this practice is about awareness — reminding us to slow down, get together, and consciously think about our impact on the planet. Some of my favorite Earth Hour activities include candlelit story exchange, game night, or just looking up at the stars.

As we continue to shelter in place, I challenge us all to choose a few evenings throughout April to re-create Earth Hour, and tell our friends and family about how we’re spreading awareness by turning off the lights. Even small actions have great impact when we do them as a collective.


Talia Arbit

At LinkedIn, we are hosting a series of virtual events to celebrate Earth Day. Among the offerings are a live demo about cooking vegan; a virtual brainstorm about ways to make your household zero waste; DIY workshops on how to upcycle a t-shirt into a tote bag; how to make eco-friendly house cleaners/face scrubs/body masks; and many others.

Maybe one of these activities speaks to you, and you can host something similar for your teammates — or even your whole organization!


Erica Warren 

Earth Day is a celebration of the small things, looking for and discovering the nature around us. It’s a call to explore the wild things in our nearby world… but, this year, with six feet or more between us.

April green reminds me to explore hillsides, creeks, and bushes near my home. Wild things are everywhere: hummingbirds visit flowering bushes; Pacific chorus frogs line the creeks; and the nymph spittlebugs make use of my basil plants as habitat.  Sometimes I find plants I’m unfamiliar with, or insects with beautiful colors but unknown names. But I have a little trick up my sleeve — iNaturalist, a citizen science app that allows me to upload a picture of my find, and have it suggest the family, genus, or species I’m seeing in real time.

Being curious makes me feel more connected to the place I live, and I hope the same is true for you. I hope you will go out and try using iNaturalist, maybe even to take part in City Nature Challenge 2020 between April 24-27.


Rebecca Boyles 

On this Earth Day, I plan to get outside with my family. My daughter and the dogs love to walk along the trails and splash in the bay. In these challenging times, simple pleasures like the sun on my skin or the smell of the earth remind me just how important it is to enjoy nature — and to do our part to preserve it.



Sara Lanning 

On April 22, 2020 we will still be in a shelter-in-place situation in the Bay Area, as will much of the world. I am choosing to utilize my lunch hour to watch a webinar to gain more information on Water for People, which has been on the non-profit scene since the 1980s. Their mission: “Water For People exists to promote the development of high-quality drinking water and sanitation services, accessible to all, and sustained by strong communities, businesses, and governments.”

I feel that citizens of the world need to be better educated on how much water is used every day, and how much of the world does not have access to water. The shelter-in-place situation really highlights how we need to protect the resources we have, and not take them for granted.

Please join me in this free event.


Cinndy Erickson 

What does Earth Day mean to me? Two weeks ago I would have given you a very different answer than I will now. Then, I would have told you about the planet and living things, particularly plants and animals, and how humans need to be stewards of them all.

But today, from the perspective of a global pandemic in progress, I can assure you that whether or not we appreciate it, or even believe it to be true, everything we know or imagine to be is connected — including humans, who think of themselves as so separate from everything else. For all the deforesting, polluting, and exterminating wrought on our environment by humans, who blindly see ourselves as the supreme species, we are now being laid low in vast numbers by a primordial, microscopic organism whose infinitely adaptable survival mechanism is to use humans as an incubator before moving on. Now the shoe is on the other foot. We are connected after all.

Somewhere in the minerals we’ve been mining, or the flora we’ve been deforesting, or the fauna we’ve been exterminating lays the antidote, the answer to our survival. Our savior will be our ingenuity. The irony is that the material for that ingenious science will come from the planet we have been slowly destroying. We are, after all, connected.

So now what Earth Day means to me is survival, the preservation of all that we are connected to, so that it is there when we need it — trees to breathe, water to drink, and the thing that we don’t know yet that will cure and inoculate us from the microscopic enemy that would exterminate us. The good news, as it has always been, is that we have a choice.


Many Earth Day activities and actions are being moved online, along with the rest of our lives. Here are a couple of webpages to check out and find your groove for getting involved. Happy 50th Earth Day to all!

  • San Francisco Department of the Environment is sponsoring Climate Action Month, featuring virtual events and everyday actions for all
  • The Climate Reality Project’s site for Earth Day programming will be updated as plans are finalized
  • Sign up here to get involved in climate-centric resistance actions with’s Global Climate Strike

Southeastern Jordan — Photo by USGS on Unsplash