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Annual Earth Day Canceled In Light Of Coronavirus



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Off the calendar this year, along with most other activities, is Newtown’s 13th Annual Earth Day Festival, prompted by novel coronavirus health concerns. Also interrupted this year is International Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, which will offer a virtual recognition.

The 13th annual local event had been scheduled for Saturday, April 25, returning to the front lawn of Newtown Middle School for six hours.

Newtown Earth Day Committee member Dan Holmes on Friday, March 20, confirmed that the local celebration is “definitely canceled this year.” As with many abruptly changing plans reacting to day-to-day coronavirus updates, Mr Holmes can only speculate about this year’s potential future Earth Day plans.

“I would like to have it later in the year," he said. "It’s important,” he added, but the full committee will have to make a decision, “when we reconvene.”

Committee member Brad Paynter said that given the world-wide pandemic, “I think it’s the right move” to cancel this year’s event. “We read the governor’s order about [social distancing] groups and that took the decision out of our hands.”

Newtown Earth Day Festival annually sees hundreds of guests enjoying the many vendors, crafts, demonstrations, live music, food, and family activities.

He said the committee will “maybe postpone to the fall for a solstice, equinox celebration.”

He added, “It’s a bummer,” since this year marks the 50th National Earth Day recognition. “It was going to be a good t.ime, but now I think that Earth Day is the least of people’s concerns”

As for future Earth Day planning, Paynter said, “I assume that everything is going to be on the table… once the committee meets and forms other ideas to recognize Earth Day.”

Holmes “has good ideas, and so [do] Aaron Coopersmith, Rob Kaiser, Alex Rankin,” and other committee members, Paynter said.

“Everybody be safe, wash your hands, recycle, do all that good stuff,” Paynter said.

Rather than gathering as a community on the middle school lawn, other Earth Day activities could take place, Holmes said. “Maybe an educational article, that I would love to do.” Residents could read about and share their environmentally friendly thoughts.

Another Earth Day-related activity could be revisiting past environmental projects.

“One of the things I think about is that buffer we planted,” referring to native trees and shrubs planted in recent years streamside by Deep Brook below the Park and Bark dog park. “Those trees are getting really beautiful.”

Holmes speculated that several people at a time could tend to the trees, clear invasive species, etc.

“The invasives are getting really bad. The plants are starting to swallow things up,” he said. Efforts could be coordinated through school groups or civic organizations, Holmes said.

National Earth Day

In mid-March, the national Earth Day Network announced its decision to “shift to global digital mobilizations for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day,” a press release stated.

A March 17 release datelined Washington, DC stated, “Amid the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, Earth Day Network, the global organizer of Earth Day, will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with the first Digital Earth Day, a global digital mobilization on April 22 to address the most urgent threats to people and the planet.

“At Earth Day Network, the health and safety of volunteers and participants in Earth Day events is our top concern. Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly — in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.

Earth Day Network urges everyone to assess their situation individually, take precautions and follow the recommendations and advice from the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “from local authorities from your city and country,” the release states.

“Whether it be coronavirus or our global climate crisis, we cannot shut down,” said Rogers. “Instead, we must shift our energies and efforts to new ways to mobilize the world to action.”

Earth Day’s updated digital-first strategy will leverage the global power of some of the world’s most innovative digital media platforms to mobilize millions in a collective call for transformative action for the planet.

The global conversation will be unified and tracked by the shared hashtags #EarthDay2020 and #EarthRise. The Earth Day Network will be providing live coverage of the global digital mobilizations from its social media accounts (@earthdaynetwork).

Plans are also underway to develop a major global event, coordinated across digital platforms to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22.

Some of the other digital events will include virtual protests, social media campaigns, online teach-ins and more. A full scope of digital actions will be available at earthday.org.

Whether online or in person, the goal of Earth Day remains unchanged: to unite hundreds of millions of people around the world to pressure world leaders to act on environmental degradation and climate change.

“When 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, they believed the warnings of scientists, as did the US Congress,” said Denis Hayes, Board Chair Emeritus of Earth Day Network and the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day in 1970. “In a decade of bipartisan support for science, Congress passed a set of forward-thinking laws that protected human health, species, and the planet.”

“Our current pandemic demonstrates that governments must embrace science early. As we see now, many governments were slow to respond or even indifferent about the science of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rogers. “But the last few weeks have also demonstrated that our society, even at the international level, is capable of mass shifts across all sectors to meet a crisis head-on. We must apply the same scale and urgency of our response to climate change.

“We hope you will stand with us as we fight for a safer, healthier and more just future for all,” added Rogers. “Together, we can build an Earth Day unlike any other — an Earth Day that defines us as a global community, united by our challenges yet unshrinking from the bold, urgent action needed to overcome them.”

Earth Day Network is also postponing its live 50th anniversary of Earth Day event on the National Mall, originally scheduled for April 25, moving the live global event to October 24-25, to mark the half birthday of Earth Day.

For additional information, go to earthday.org, contact dzeck@mediaforum.org, or call 202-355-8875.

The 13th Annual Newtown Earth Day Festival, an outdoor event scheduled for Saturday, April 25, has been canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic. A national digital effort is being planned by Earth Day Network, and local organizers are still hoping that smaller projects fall into place.
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