April 22nd is the designated day for the world to celebrate the environment. On this commemorative occasion, we unite to raise awareness for environmental protection while celebrating the Earth. The special day is elongated to a week in mid-April: Earth Week.
The National Environmental Education Foundation introduces Earth Week as the “largest celebration of environmental education.” Carving out one week of the year that uplifts environmental education contributes to what the North American Association for Environmental Education describes as: “a process that helps individuals, communities and organizations learn more about the environment, and develop skills and understanding about how to address global challenges.” If environmental education “has the power to transform lives and society...informs and inspires..influences attitudes…[and] motivates action,” then Earth Week can contribute to “expanding the constituency for environmental movement and creating healthier and more civically-engaged communities.”
The Earth Day Initiative will kick off EarthWeek early with an Earth Day Virtual Stage hosting a series of speakers: U.S. Senator, Elizabeth Warren; from the EPA Office of Science and Technology in the Office of Water, Dr. Elizabeth Southerland; WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Taylor Morton; and other public figures discussing the importance of the environment, sustainability, and community.
The week of Environmental Education officially begins with an Earth Day Virtual Festival, where participants can create their own avatars, visit virtual booths, explore EcoArt Project art exhibit, and engage with other attendees. The Earth Day Initiative highlights: “The virtual festival provides an opportunity for environmental organizations and attendees to come together for Earth Day 2021 even when we can’t be together in person, continue the climate conversation in this pivotal year, and identify ways to make a positive impact.” Visit the 2021 event page for more information on who will be hosting a booth and how to RSVP.
The American Museum of Natural History’s EarthFest Online will occur on April 22nd with virtual events at 11am, 1-3pm, and 7pm EST. Attend an Earth Day Dance party, hear Animal Tales with the American Lore Theater, explore Astronomy Online, and converse with scientists from the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation in Action.While the previous events had no restriction on ages, Exploratorium’s After Dark Online environmental justice presentation is only open to individuals 18+. Held on Earth Day at 7:00pm PDT, participants will be able to “look toward our local landscapes, celebrating and highlighting the work of organizations who expose inequitable impacts of climate change and advocate for environmental justice.”
... it is important to acknowledge the importance of environmental education in 2021.
In highlighting these events, I hope to feature the breadth of environmental education that occurs during Earth Week. Although everyone may not be able to attend all, it is important to acknowledge the importance of environmental education in 2021. Action is required to combat the climate crisis; thus, environmental education can contribute by offering support and a basis for change through education. To do, we must learn.
In the week-long celebration, I propose further questions that will help to continue environmental education year-round. For example, folks can ask themselves: what do you want your peers to learn about the environment? How can I learn more about environmental issues? How can I engage with my community by learning about environmental issues that affect us? Earth Week encourages reflections of how the week-long celebrations and education can become a forever practice.
Maria Duran Gonzalez is currently living in Miami, Florida, and is a first-year prospective Environmental Analysis major. She is passionate about food justice, gardening, and intersectional environmentalism.