THE Tokyo 2020 Olympics was moved to 2021. The world’s most famous cycling race Tour de France scheduled to begin this June 27 was also postponed. Even the Oktoberfest in Munich was cancelled for the first time since World War 2. However, Earth Day was commemorated last Wednesday, April 22, in spite of the lockdowns in many countries around the world. It was without the usual fanfare of course.

I believe this is the best time to celebrate Earth Day, the world’s biggest environmental event. The skies are clearer, air pollution and carbon dioxide emission levels are down and less fossil fuel is being consumed. This is precisely what Earth Day hopes to achieve -- a cleaner planet. Another good reason why there should be a celebration is because Earth Day turns 50 this year!

It all started in September 1969 when US Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the idea for a nationwide teach-in about the environment. This led to the first Earth Day in April 22, 1970. Approximately 20 million people in the United States took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. The movement led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of landmark environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries. Earth Day 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The Philippines has always been an active participant in Earth Day celebrations. The events are led by Earth Day Network Philippines (ENDP) currently chaired by one of the pillars of the zero waste recycling movement in the Philippines, Dr. Metodio Palaypay. By the way, in the Philippines Earth Day it is not just a one day event. April is celebrated as “The Month of Planet Earth” by virtue of Proclamation 1482 signed on April 10, 2008 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Earth Day 2020 theme is Climate Action, the most pressing topic of our time. Climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. Sadly though, this urgent concern was momentarily eclipsed by the Covid-10 pandemic.

Since last year, ENDP was already busy preparing for Earth day 2020. However, because of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, alternative activities were held instead. Among these are the 50 voices of different stakeholders making their commitment to climate action which were posted on the EDNP website, Facebook and Youtube and a webinar series on the State of the Philippine Environment on April 18, 20 and 22.

To view the activities for Earth Day 2020 in the Philippines and to make your own commitments to Mother Earth, visit the EDNP website at www.earthday.ph.