While almost everything else in life seems to have come to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mother Earth continues to flourish.
And with the 50th anniversary of Earth Week upon us, the City of Arborly Love is blooming with earth-friendly initiatives and events.
“Earth Week is an important opportunity to engage residents in the wonders of nature and the importance of caring for our green spaces,” said Kathryn Ott Lovell, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner. “During this time, the importance of our parks and natural resources is in focus more than ever before.”
Philadelphia has a storied history with Earth Week. The week-long celebration originated here in 1970 when tens of thousands of people gathered to rally for environmental protection. Across the nation, 20 million people participated in the inaugural Earth Day, initiating a vital movement that still thrives today.
Now, a half century later, Earth Day may look extremely different—especially amid a worldwide pandemic—but the day’s message rings more true than ever before. To celebrate, the city has organized a plethora of virtual events to help Philadelphians embrace nature and learn more about its thriving impact.
Green Philly is hosting a webinar to celebrate 50 years of Earth Day. The live-streaming event will feature digital speakers and networking with local activists. There will also be a student-led teach-in event that reflects on the history of environmental and climate justice, sustainability advocacy and environmental racism throughout the Philadelphia area. And the Energy Co-op and Weaver’s Way Co-op is hosting a free workshop about renewable energy and local low-waste options people can adopt into their everyday lives.
For more information or to sign up for these events, or the many others available in celebration with Earth Week, visit phila.gov/2020-04-20-celebrating-the-50th-anniversary-of-earth-day.
“Bringing Earth Week online was a natural step for Parks and Recreation’s environmental education and community engagement work,” said Lovell. “We hope residents join Parks and Rec to celebrate Earth Week virtually as we stay home and stay safe.”
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, many of the city’s Earth Week celebrations were originally planned in-person, but in light of the city’s stay-at-home order, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has shifted to virtual programming instead.
The Parks & Rec @ Home series brings nature-filled programming home, connecting viewers with environmentally-friendly adventures throughout the week. On Wednesday, April 22, viewers can tune in for a “Grow Up Green” nature session for young children. On Thursday, there will be a virtual tour of Philadelphia’s spring trees courtesy of Tree Philly. And on Friday, people can learn more about the art of birdwatching. All episodes are available on the city’s Parks and Recreation Facebook page (facebook.com/PhilaParkandRec) at 3 p.m.
Although the majority of the city’s Earth Week festivities have migrated online, there is one that celebrates the great outdoors while actually exploring them.
The fifth annual City Nature Challenge will take place this weekend—with some necessary modifications. In an effort to embrace the healing powers of nature, CNC organizers have decided not to cancel this year’s event, but instead encourage participants to explore their neighborhoods and parks while continuing to practice safe social distancing.
“Indeed at a time of illness, stress, and isolation from our neighbors, connecting with nature outdoors can be incredibly therapeutic. We hope you can take part in the CNC as something we can still do safely as we take a break from our increasingly-homebound lives,” the Philadelphia City Nature Challenge shared on its website.
Through this initiative, nature-enthusiasts throughout Philadelphia and surrounding counties can document wildlife in their areas. Those who would like to partake can simply take a picture of wildlife in your neighborhood—this can be a plant or animal— then note the location where it was taken and share your discovery online via the iNaturalist app (or visit inaturalist.org).
This global initiative—which takes place April 24 – 27—strives to connect scientists and citizens through a shared love of nature while simultaneously helping document biodiversity in urban neighborhoods. For example, the City of Philadelphia has recorded more than 325 species of birds and have documented other discoveries like butterflies, foxes, snails and more.
For more information, or to participate in Philadelphia’s City Nature Challenge, visit cncphilly.org.
“The City Nature Challenge is—and always has been—about connecting people and communities with nature,” notes the CNC website. “During such uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to foster a sense of community, and the City Nature Challenge allows us to do just that.”