As New York, the hardest hit region in the U.S. is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, the city’s institutions are still finding time to honor Earth Day’s 50th anniversary – online, Politico reports.
The 50th anniversary of Earth Day that organizers called “the largest secular observance in the world,” and destined to be a celebration with millions of people expected to fill parks, stadiums and universities will now have to mark the day devoted to environmental protection online instead.
“Environmental advocates had high hopes for Earth day, and planned numerous events and protests after a series of environmental wins last year in New York and New Jersey legislatures, but disruptions from the global pandemic will mute any celebrations as they’re confined to Zoom webinars and social media campaigns,” writes Politico.
Because of the pandemic New York environmental officials and activists fear issues like plastic bag bans that were just gaining mainstream status in New York and New Jersey are now taking a back seat and those steps back may outlast the coronavirus.
“You can’t quarantine climate change,” said Eddie Bautista, executive director of the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance. “This stuff is here — we have to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
“I know people have this ‘In times of crisis you can only focus on this crisis’ kind of idea … but that’s just so the wrong lesson to take,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. “The lesson to take here is inequality and unpreparedness make crises that much more catastrophic — and we know the climate crisis is coming, so we don’t have any excuse, and Earth Day this year needs to be a real clear reminder.”
“No webinar is going to stand in for Earth Day,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Earth Day was a call to environmental action and mass public demonstration. You can’t do that online.”
The de Blasio administration acknowledged the impact of the lock down on Earth Day will have this year.
“While we are doing everything we can to mitigate damage from this unprecedented global crisis, we also cannot allow the importance of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day to pass us by. In this new reality, disruptions to the City’s budget and longer term projects will be inevitable,” Julia Arredondo, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, said in a statement. “Predicting exactly what those impacts will look like right now would be premature, but we are committed to adjusting in a way that still pushes forward the collaboration necessary to confront our climate crisis and ensure a livable future for the next generation.”