Public Notice: Happy Earth Day!
This coming Wednesday, April 22, marks the 50th Earth Day. You may not have noticed, because there's been a lot going on.
And when plans started for this golden jubilee edition, no one expected that the entire civilized world would be quarantined indoors, with forays into the fresh air rationed, parks closed, and natural spaces visible only on our computer screens. Well, that's the way that the world goes 'round, to quote the dearly departed John Prine.
But Mother Earth has her wiles (and truth be told, she's a lot older than 50); one strange silver lining to a global pandemic is that the human race is producing a lot less pollution – visible-from-space amounts less in some places. And that in turn is a worry for some people. Local and national environmental leaders have been busy both locally and nationally (sometimes both at once) trying to fight attempts by the Trump administration, by the state of Texas, and by various industries to roll back environmental standards in the name of the health crisis. One of the administration's first steps – a new federal policy relaxing environmental compliance rules for petrochemical plants and other big polluters during the coronavirus crisis – prompted a sharp response from the Environmental Protection Agency's former director of civil enforcement. "It is not clear why refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities that continue to operate and keep their employees on the production line will no longer have the staff or time they need to comply with environmental laws," he wrote to the agency, in a statement co-signed by Texas Campaign for the Environment's Robin Schneider, among others. Indeed.
While Earth Day organizers' plans have been pretty thoroughly squashed by the virus, the occasion has spawned ambitious spin-offs on both the local and global levels, which we hope to hear more from in the future. Here in town, the big annual Earth Day Austin celebration at Huston-Tillotson is of course canceled (it was to have been this weekend), but after calling off the event early, festival organizers turned their efforts toward launching Community Resilience Trust ATX, a collaboration of many of the EDA sponsors and others, aiming to address the local response to the pandemic in the short run, but also "resilience as a community" in the longer term. Read more at coronavirusaustin.wordpress.com, or the Community Resilience Trust ATX Facebook page.
And the world Earth Day organization has set its sights high as well with Earth Challenge 2020, a program and smartphone app aiming to "create a global expansion of open source citizen science data and opportunities for civic engagement" by aggregating "existing citizen science from around the world" and making it available for research and public policy, and by giving each app user "the opportunity to take a civic action specifically related to issues in their own country." For Earth Day, the focus is on air quality and plastic pollution, but more issue areas will be added over time. See www.earthday.org for more info, and get the EC2020 App (in 11 languages) on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Also recommended, the Do Just 1 Thing campaign from the Earth Day Initiative, which is also sponsoring an Earth Day virtual kick-off event on Sunday, April 19. See www.earthdayinitiative.org for info and to be sent an event link.
And don't forget to sing "Happy Earth Day" twice while washing your hands.
Films for the Forest: Join Austin's Rainforest Partnership on Earth Day for a global online screening of Films for the Forest, now in its 11th year curating "powerful and inspiring stories from forests around the world" to be screened at SXSW. Well, that didn't happen, but on Earth Day, you can transport yourself to the rainforest, as the entire program will be livestreamed three separate times at www.filmsfortheforest.org for audiences around the world; here in Austin, it's at 2am, 11am, and 7pm. (See more Earth Day listings in Community.)
Life, Day to Day
Front page headlines from this week's Austin American-Statesman:
Tues., April 14: "Abbott: Curve may be flattening"
Wed., April 15: "State's coronavirus cases, deaths soar"
Green Kids Webinar is a 30-minute activity webinar put on by Environment Texas for parents and kids to learn about environmental issues and do related fun activities. They've just made it weekly, Tuesdays at 11am at environmenttexas.webaction.org/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=878. Next up is Facing Changing Climate (April 21), which involves some science, a picture book about a young snake named Verdi, and making sock puppets. Then comes Back to the Future: Renewable Energy (April 28), wherein you'll build your own solar pizza oven.
The Austin Humane Society is holding their 16th Annual AHS Car Raffle, with fewer than 500 tickets left for a chance to win a brand new Mazda Miata at the drawing on Sat., April 25. Tickets are $20, or three for $50, with all proceeds supporting the work AHS continues to do; see www.austinhumanesociety.org.