The first Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin as an environmental teach-in. On April 22, 1970, an estimated 20 million people participated in rallies and protests.
With grass roots activism increasing over the years, Earth Day has since gone global. And for many organizers now, it feels more important than ever to call attention to environmental issues.
“One wants to be hopeful today about a brighter future,” said Tia Nelson, the senator’s daughter and the managing director of the Outrider Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group. “I take such inspiration and comfort knowing my father had so many setbacks and defeats. After all, Earth Day was more successful than his wildest dreams.”
Whether you’re a committed activist, or looking for new ways to get involved and celebrate Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary, there is an Earth Day event for you, including cleanups, rallies and yes, teach-ins. Here are three big-ticket events perhaps worth traveling for, while other events nationwide can be found on the EarthDay.org website. Some events are being cancelled because of coronavirus, so make sure to check the status before you go.
April 22-26, Napa, Calif.
The chef Thomas Keller is joining forces with the Sierra Club and the Culinary Institute of America at Copia for the first Food Is Life Festival. Hosted on the C.I.A. at Copia’s campus in Napa, Calif., programming will center on how personal food choices can have an impact on the food system at large and, in turn, the environment.
“We’re taking our industry-facing initiatives, practical guidelines for restaurants on how they can make choices that support planetary health and wellness, and repositioning them as accessible public offerings,” said Maryam Ahmed, director of public programs for the C.I.A.
Offerings, which include cooking classes, chef demonstrations, tastings, garden tours, sit-down dinners and more, are available with a general festival pass (various versions range from $50 to $350), or via individual event tickets (some are free, others cost $150 or more). There will also be a marketplace and a free art exhibition throughout the weekend. Events will feature C.I.A. alumni, Michelin-starred chefs and winemakers.
“You could come for a cooking class on Friday and a fun oyster lunch on Saturday,” Ms. Ahmed said. “No matter where you are on your journey with food and wine, we’re offering you the opportunity to come here and discover something.”
April 17-26, Dallas
EarthX was started in 2011 as Earth Day Texas by a real estate tycoon named Trammell S. Crow. Since then, the celebration has grown to include a large-scale expo, a conference series and an environmental film festival. In its 10th year, EarthX is partnering with the National Geographic Society for the first time.
Overall, environmental storytelling is the name of the game at EarthX, and is perhaps best showcased at the environmental film festival, which combines traditional film formats with new, immersive technology. Highlights this year include “The Way of the Rain,” a multidisciplinary environmental performance created and directed by Sibylle Szaggars Redford and narrated by Robert Redford; extended reality offerings from Jane Goodall-endorsed “The Wild Immersion” and BBC Earth, and “Rebuilding Paradise,” a documentary from Ron Howard about the recovery efforts in Paradise, Calif., following devastating wildfires in 2018.
April 23-25, Washington
Organized by the Smithsonian Conservation Commons, the Earth Optimism Summit is a three-day conference series that focuses on solutions meant to inspire action. The tenor of the event, and the conversations its founders hope to inspire, are meant to combat the feeling of helplessness that can come with the deluge of negative environmental news.
“For those of us who work in conservation-related science, it almost feels as if we’re writing obituaries for the planet,” said Steven Monfort, chair of the Smithsonian Conservation Commons. “And yet, those of us who are working in the field are aware of hundreds of positive examples that are working. Earth Optimism is about focusing on solutions, innovation and leadership.”
That leadership includes thought leaders like the chef Jose Andres, Mary Robinson, former Irish president, and Ms. Nelson, who will be screening a short film (she’ll be appearing at EarthX, too). But Earth Optimism places a special emphasis on youth involvement, with youth lightning talks and special sessions on youth movements. Three-day adult and student tickets are available for the Summit, while the Innovation Commons, an exhibition hall featuring demonstrations and art work, will be open to the public.